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Bishop of Cape Palmas, Africa. 


2 and 3 Bible House 




Copyright, 1880, 


T T has pleased God to call me from the com- 
-*■ panions and loved ones of my early min- 
istry, to preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus 
Christ in Africa ; hence this little book of 
thoughts on the life of John the Baptist for 
them. I selected John's life because I love 
him with a strong, tender, vast personal love. 
Jesus excepted, there has no one gone from 
earth to heaven whose spirit I hope to press 
close to my own with a thrill more enraptur- 
ing and a joy more deep, than this mighty 
man of God, who stood all alone, so strong, 
firm, and true. 

I have culled these few thoughts from among 
many of my soul communings, because I 
deemed them helpful to my children in the 
Gospel, and comforting to the few tried true 
ones who have stood nearest and firmest by 
me in life's battles. To these I dedicate this 


little volume, with deep, sweet gratitude for 
the memories of the past, and strong, bright- 
ening hopes for the love, glory, and rest of 
that future when we shall meet and have each 

other forever, 

C. Clifton Penick. 

Baltimore, Md,, Oct, 29, 1880, 



Chapter I. — God loves good Fruits for His great 

Acres 7 

Chapter II. — The Glory of Motherhood 15 

Chapter III. — The Preacher supersedes the Priest.. 23 

Chapter IV. — Growing 31 

Chapter V. — God's Messenger 40 

Chapter VI. — The Wilderness Temple 47 

Chapter VII. — Life in its naked Grandeur — the Glory 

of its Purpose conquering Earth. . 54 

Chapter VIII. — John's Opinion of his Power . 6r 

Chapter IX. — The Rest of Sincerity 69 

Chapter X 76 

Chapter XI. — Radicalness of John's Preaching 83 

Chapter XII. — John to the Ecclesiastical Life of his 

Day 91 

Chapter XIII. — John the Baptist to the Social Life 

of his Day 98 

Chapter XIV.— John the Baptist to the National Life 

of Man 106 

Chapter XV.— John's Record 118 

Chapter XVI. —Prosperity's Trial . . , 126 



Chapter XVII. — In the Presence of the King 133 

Chapter XVIII. — John's Witness to Jesus 142 

Chapter XIX. — John's View of Life and - its Great- 
ness 150 

Chapter XX. — John's Love for Jesus 157 

Chapter XXI. — John's Courage 165 

Chapter XXII. —Adversity's Trial 174 

Chapter XXIII. — The Message of John to Jesus, 

and the Reply 182 

Chapter XXIV. — Gathering up the Fragments 191 

Chapter XXV. — The Unshaken Reed 199 

Chapter XXVI. — The Discarder of Soft Raiment. . . 208 

Chapter XXVII. — More than a Prophet 217 

Chapter XXVIII , 226 

Chapter XXIX. — How to Die 234 

Chapter XXX. — Jesus in John's Footsteps 242 

Chapter XXXI. — Trueness Invincible 251 

Chapter XXXII.— Be Faithful unto Death 259 

More Than a Prophet." 



" There was in the days of Herod, the King of Judea, a 
certain priest named Zacharias of the course of Abia : and 
his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was 
Elizabeth." — Luke i : 5-22. 

/^"^ OD is very careful in selecting and training 

^~* the parents of His heroes. Long time 

may their souls travail ere there is a token of a 

real birth. God can wait, or, rather, make man 

wait until his requirements ripen. Abraham 

and Sarah were not ready to receive Isaac, 

the promised son, until after a life of long 

and severe travail. Long did Manoah and his 

seeming barren wife wait, struggle, suffer, and 

pray ere a Samson was born. Deep, bitter, 


and long were the agonies of a Hannah ere a 
Samuel was brought forth to stand for his God 
before Israel and a world. It was in his old 
age that Jesse begat David, the glory of Israel's 
kings and the man after God's own heart. 
And now we come to the close of the Jewish 
dispensation. God is about to widen His 
promises unto all the world. The Mosaic law 
is to be fulfilled : yes, so full by the great 
soul of Jesus that it shall run over, and the 
glad tidings flow on, on, widening, deepening 
through the desert, making it " blossom as the 
rose," teaching the mountains to send forth 
" rivers of waters'' until the " knowledge of the 
Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover 
the sea." 

Now mark how like the beginning is the 
close of this preparatory kingdom ; how like 
the birth of Isaac is the birth of John the Bap- 
tist ! Zacharias and Elizabeth were both old 
now. Long and faithfully had God trained 
their souls for the parentship a man so 
grand ; and now, in the evening twilight of 
life, as they wait the call to " come up higher, " 
lo ! the Angel Gabriel appears in the temple 


and announces the promise of God, the birth 
of John the Baptist, the last prophet of the 
Old Dispensation, who was to be born, reared, 
and trained by those whom God had trained 
and proven so many trusting, serving years, 
thus making the hearts of Zacharias and Eliza- 
beth beat in deep sympathy with those of 
Abraham and Sarah, causing them to feel that 
He who began could and would fulfill all His 
glorious work. 

It is time men and women were awakening 
to the realization of the responsibility before 
God of bringing souls into existence, were look- 
ing into the great causes which go to make 
the blessing of God a part of a child's birth. 
Surely, few of the pages of time record more 
thoughtless recklessness than the birth-page of 
man. With what abandonment do millions 
beget and launch young souls upon the awful 
sea of eternal existence, on to the issues of life 
or death, without first having prepared their 
hearts and lives for this fearful responsibility 
before God, who has ordered a law to run 
under all these deeds and carry their conse- 
quences on through coming generations. " The 


promise is to you and your seed" is a glorious 
hope; "visiting the sins of the fathers upon 
the children unto the third and fourth genera- 
tion of them that hate me" is a fearful reality. 
How, in the face of these solemn declarations 
of God, a Christian man or woman can marry a 
sinner, running all the risk of damning their 
offspring, to say nothing of committing the 
deepest and most sacred chambers of the heart 
to the partnership of one under the control 
and in the service of Satan, is what I cannot 
comprehend. It certainly shows a sad mis- 
trust of God's own words and laws, and a hor- 
rible braving of consequences before which 
angels would tremble. 

But the Angel Gabriel came to a man and 
woman approved of God, and came with joy. 
How His spirit dwells in those great truths 
wrapped up in His message ! Think you he 
bore that message with cold indifference ? 
Think you his was the only angelic spirit 
thrilled with its truths ? I trow not. 

It is no mere accident that such revelations 
come to us, when an angel announces the 
birth of Isaac, Samson, John the Baptist, and 


our Lord ; for they show how intensely the 
heavenly hosts bend in living interest over 
these birth-scenes, and with what joy, when 
God permits them to foresee a great spirit's 
birth. No wonder, then, that the choirs of 
heaven came singing at the birth of Jesus. 
No wonder, when in Revelation we see the 
woman delivered of a man-child who was to 
rule the nations, that the child should be 
caught up unto God and to His throne from a 
persecuting earth. It is a sweet, comforting 
thought to realize how close in sympathy these 
spirits of God hover over the birth-bed of the 
Christian child, a true propagation of Christian 
nature by Christian parents. And it is no 
wonder we hear of their joy in the presence of 
God, when " one sinner repenteth," one child 
they have watched and ministered to from 
birth comes out and fully clasps the sweet fel- 
lowship of our Lord. Christian parents, take 
courage ; God's angels are helping you ! 

Gabriel pours out the rich treasures of his 
heavenly message, and pauses before the soul 
of Zacharias as it staggers beneath the over- 
whelming richness of the promise, and stum- 


bles at the frailty of himself. !< Whereby shall 
I know this ? for I am an old man, and my 
wife well stricken in years." Alas, how often 
are we stunned at the greatness of God's 
goodness ! Would that we could look less at 
our own frailty and more at His boundless 
grace. How many Christians, like Zacharias, 
can faithfully and blamelessly serve God 
through a long life of toil, and yet cannot 
open their hearts to the fulness of His gra- 
cious love. Some great blessing promised 
seems to stun them, and, like Jacob, they must 
see the wagons Joseph sent ere they can re- 
joice ; Tor, like Zacharias, must be dumb for a 
season, until in their stillness they know He is 

Strong and startling comes back the answer 
to his doubt : ''I am Gabriel, that stand in 
the presence of God." To have his veraci- 
ty questioned with a doubt was what the 
heavenly messenger could not brook. He 
stood " in the presence of God," where truth 
eternal, truth as live and splendid as the face 
of Jehovah, beamed in its glory, and no doubt 
showed it there. "I am Gabriel, a heavenly 


character, one whose word is known ; here is 
my name, here is my address ; you doubt my 
words : look to it, then, for where I stand 
nothing that is not truth can live ; thou shalt 
be dumb and not able to speak until the day 
that these things shall be performed, because 
thou believest not my words which shall be 
fulfilled in their season.'' 

Doubt and unbelief have often silenced the 
tongue and hushed the joy that should have 
sounded forth God's praises in songs of glad- 
ness. Zacharias now believes ; but it is such a 
belief as speaks not the joy of soul, such a si- 
lent trust as should deepen every word of that 
heavenly messenger into his very being of 
beings, and grave it on his heart of hearts. 
And we learn that when God speaks, com- 
manding us to do or promising us a blessing, 
He will make our strength sufficient for all His 
requirements. " My grace is sufficient for 
thee ; my strength is made perfect in weak- 

Thus it was that God broke the long, pain- 
ful silence of the night of anxious watching, so 
quietly, so strongly, so sweetly amid the ris- 


ing fragrance of two holy, loving, faithful 
lives. The great temple of Herod stood in 
the dazzling show of its magnificence ; but the 
centre of interest now turns from it to the 
holier temple of the consecrated lives, by the 
fireside of Zacharias and the carpenter-ship of 


Luke i : 23-56. 

T"\ 7E have here one of the most tender, 
' * touching, beautiful pictures in all the 
realms of human life : two women chosen of 
God — one to be the mother of the " greatest 
of woman born," and the other the mother of 
the Son of God Himself — and it pleases God 
to lift the inner veil, to let all of His children 
look upon their heart-life from the time of 
conception to the day of bringing forth. 
Mothers, here is a page of God's word for you ; 
here the hand of inspiration holds before your 
souls the great mirror of true motherhood at 
the period which of all others must be to you 
the most intense, anxious, and hopeful of life, 
if you are true women — those days when you 
are conscious of an immortal soul about to be 
ushered into existence through your life, and 


you feel within you the throbbings of life as 
they struggle in your first-born — life of your 
life issuing from you to speed on to eternity 
and to God. This is a time fur deep heart 
searchings, strong soul pleadings, great heart 
longings and hopings, tremblings, and prayers. 
It is said of Elizabeth, "she hid herself five 
months," and as she passed out from the 
world's noisy, busy toil and confusion, the 
words which echo her farewell are full and 
sweet. " Thus hath the Lord dealt with me 
in the days wherein Pie looked on me to take 
away my reproach among men." With these 
Avords falling upon our ears as she departs, it 
is not hard to know where and for what she 
has gone into the cleft of the rock to hide her 
with her God, to nourish that precious life- 
germ within her on the milk from heaven, 
and breathe holy inspiration into the very es- 
sence of his conception, that he may come forth 
from the womb with the pulsations of God's 
spirit bounding in his first heart-beats, and the 
nature of his God breathed in his first breath. 
No wonder, then, that we hear the .great 
truth, "He was filled with the Holy Ghost 


even from his mother's womb." Oh, mothers, 
do you see what a gate to His heart and life 
God opens here especially for you ? Do you 
see how you may get Him to make your child, 
as it were, born again from the womb, and let 
the first pulsation of that young life be thrilled 
with the glad leapings of glorious immortal- 
ity ? Who can doubt that a child so con- 
ceived, so born in the very atmosphere of 
holiness, as it were on the very steps of the 
Mercy Seat, must be blessed of God ? 

But let us come a little closer, and hear the 
echoes of her heart a little deeper. The Vir- 
gin Mary has come to keep vigil with her, and 
ask her soul-watchings in her own holy hopes, 
and the two stand facing each other : the 
young "blessed above women" and the old 
faithful servant whose God has " taken away 
her reproach before men." The Gospel faces 
the Law. The Law is God's mercy brought 
forth by His mighty power from man's sinful 
barrenness. Sarah was barren, Rebekah was 
barren, Hannah was barren, Elizabeth was 
barren, but God's mercy found a way to prop- 
agate a chosen seed and lead on the genera- 


tion of His elect through all these difficulties. 
But now, when it comes to Christ, full nature 
leaps gladly to her duty all in tune, and the 
young, hopeful, pure virgin combines in the 
fulness and freshness of her womanhood with 
God's great nature of love ; from henceforth 
flows on in its boundless and fathomless 
depths of grace. The nature of God no longer 
speaks through the narrow channels of a cere- 
monial law, but beats, rises, swells, and sweeps 
under us, about us, through us, over us, in the 
soul-filling life of Christ. In Him is life, and 
He came that we might have this life more 
abundantly ; that the life of God should hence- 
forth flow in the wideness and fulness of the 
Spirit, and not in the narrow barrenness of the 

At the sound of the Virgin's voice the 
babe leaped in the womb of Elizabeth ; and 
this was no mere convulsive, spasmodic jerk, 
but we are expressly told " it was a leap for 
joy." God's nature had already so permeated 
mother and child that the deep quickenings of 
His Spirit outran the course of nature, and 
sent a thrill of joy into a being yet unborn. 


Thus began that joy which shone in the full- 
ness of glory when, long years after, St. John 
said, " The friend of the Bridegroom standeth 
and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of 
the Bridegroom's voice ; this my joy there- 
fore is fulfilled." The joy-leap of the babe 
was the signal for Elizabeth to break forth 
in grateful praise — short, but full of faith — 
which was answered in that exalted and ex- 
quisite soul-anthem from the Virgin, bursting 
forth in the rapturous words, " My soul doth 
magnify the Lord. My spirit hath rejoiced in 
God my Saviour." Such scenes as this are 
not oft vouchsafed to mortal eyes ; and echoes 
so sweet and deep from hearts so pure and 
true, not oft heard by human ears amid the 
echoes of this cruder life and the grating of a 
world's friction. Let our souls then, dwell 
with tender, deep, earnest joy amid their never- 
dying echoes, and may we press on with all 
the power of a living, yearning determination 
to like exaltation and entire consecration of 

Sweet indeed must have been the soul-com- 
munings of Mary and Elizabeth during this 


visit. It is not hard to make companionship 
rich with living joy when we have the great 
aims and ends of life all in common. The 
deepest, sweetest soul-blendings this earth can 
ever know are those born when two great, 
pure hearts, true to God, flow into each other 
in some great life - absorbing, confidential, 
heaven-sent purpose. Such meetings linger in 
memory like the scenes of bursting sunlight 
here and there over the clouded landscape, as 
if Heaven's smiling sympathy broke through 
to sweeten and bless. Alas ! would that there 
were more such in life ; would that there were 
an exaltation in human love, and that souls 
would climb higher, get nearer to God to make 
love, or I should say to find it ; for when God 
tunes two hearts, they have only to touch and 
the concord of sweet harmony rolls forth. Yes. 
if w r e ascended in our love-seeking we would 
get beyond the blight of disappointments and 
the witherings of years, for we would love God 
in each other ; the sure beauties of eternal 
realities that time nor space can change, nor 
worldly fortune nor frown becloud ; a locking 
and clasping of souls, to pass on unbroken into 


the sweet companionship of heaven's own eter- 
nal joys. 

"About three months Mary abode with 
Elizabeth, and then departed to her own 
home." The duties in this life are too real, 
the battle too pressing, the issues too tremen- 
dous to permit " loyal hearts and true" to sit 
enjoying each other long. Here we may but 
clasp hands and press on to the front, may but 
let the heart leap in the holy light of greeting 
love, to go forward stronger, gladder, braver, 
into the battle. Jesus loves us too tenderly 
and dearly to permit us to keep any other than 
Himself always by our sides. He, and He 
alone, can say, " I will never leave thee nor for- 
sake thee," and He alone is fit for this contin- 
uous companionship. We cannot grow greater 
and stronger, truer and braver, brighter and 
happier, in any other companionship than 
His. " My grace is sufficient for thee." So, 
leaning on His arm alone, we go into the bat- 
tle. Still on we press, through the long anx- 
ious days, nights, and years of watching, with 
Him alone, and when at last we descend into 
" the dark valley of the shadow of death," we 


still " fear no evil ; His rod and His staff 
comfort us," and the " Everlasting Arms" are 
still around us. 

Thus may we, like Mary and Elizabeth, drink 
in all the joys of holy companionship as God 
sends them, and then press on, each in her 
course, to a more complete companionship 
with God. and the brave and faithful bringing 
forth and fulfilling His holy purposes intrusted 
to us. 



" His name is John." — Luke i : 59-79. 

HP* HE day of Elizabeth's delivery came : 
-*■ her child was born. It must have been 
a touching scene when the aged father gazed 
in silent adoration at the fulfilment of God's 
promise. But it was best thus. The soul 
needs silence : needs to be still that it may 
know He is God ; needs seasons of long, deep 
communion, holy heart-talk with God, unbro- 
ken by a prattling world's interruptions. 

The day of circumcision has come : the child 
must be named, and the rejoicing friends 
would honor the father by giving his boy the 
name of Zacharias. The mother objects, and 
says, " His name is John." Friends protest ; 
11 None of his kindred is named John" : they 
refer it to Zacharias. He calls for his tablet, 
and writes, " His name is John" i.e., gracious 
gift of Jehovah. Yes, the day of grace had 


come. The long reign of the schoolmaster 
" Law" draws to its close, and with it the 
long and much cherished line of the priest- 
hood. Henceforth the ministers of the Gos- 
pel, the " messengers of glad tidings," must go 
before him and " turn the hearts of the dis- 
obedient to the wisdom of the just." Hence- 
forth the prophets, and not the priests, are to be 
His apostles to fallen man, sent to tell of the 
great sacrifice offered, the debt paid, the sin- 
ner ransomed, the Father reconciled, the great 
" it is finished," and not to pretend to offer 
anew the sacrifice for sin. Yes, John comes to 
usher in the King of Grace, the reign of God's 
love ; and it was meet and fit that with his 
very name he should cut asunder those associ- 
ations that bound him to the old order of 
things, for he comes to proclaim the kingdom 
of heaven at hand, the shadows past and the 
substance present. He came to honor God's 
grace, not to prolong Zacharias' name, family 
line, or priesthood. The preacher John takes 
the place of the priest Zacharias, and the wil- 
derness and the conquest of the world ' are 
substituted for Jerusalem and the Temple. 


So God seems to have ordered ; but alas, 
how long do men hover over that which lives 
only in the past and was buried on Mount 
Calvary ! How do they long for the days 
and incense of Zacharias, instead of pressing 
into the kingdom at the preaching of John ! 
No wonder that all present marvelled at those 
words written by Zacharias. No wonder they 
laid up those words in their hearts, saying, 
' What manner of child shall this be ?" For 
in that name and its surroundings they felt a 
trembling like that of an earthquake strike 
through all the structures of the Levitical dis- 

No sooner had the words been traced by 
the style of Zacharias than his tongue was 
loosed, and the deep, rich meditations of his 
heart burst forth : " Blessed be the Lord 
God of Israel, for He hath visited and re- 
deemed His people, and hath raised up a horn 
of salvation for us in the house of His servant 
David. " 

How thoroughly had God's chastening done 
its work. Oh, it is a blessed and glorious 
thing to see a good man under the rod of the 


Lord ! It is like Moses smiting the rock, and 
forthwith streams of pure living water come 
forth to slake the thirsting souls of thousands. 
The sweetest, purest, freshest springs we find 
in God's word are those given when He bows 
some holy soul in sorrow ; and well may the pil- 
grim exclaim, " Ofttimes joy is wrung from 
sadness." Had not Abel bled and died, He 
never would have spoken and encouraged all 
the armies of these sorrow-tried souls. Had 
not Noah toiled, waited, and stood through all 
those long days of trial without seeing one soul 
converted, or even convinced, outside of his 
own family, we would all miss one great, rest- 
ing, comforting example in the past. If Abra- 
ham's heart had not bled at the severing of the 
father-ties that bound him to his loved Ish- 
mael, and pressed on through all the fearful 
trials of Mount Moriah, the faithful would 
have missed a father. And so with Isaac, Ja- 
cob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David — yea, every 
hero of God comes closer to us in the mo- 
ments of his deepest agonies, his hours of he- 
roic faithfulness amid the sorrows and trials 
God sent. Truly, truly, sorrow is one of 


our richest blessings. Trouble sweeps the 
sweetest chords from our heart-strings, and 
blends our spirits lovingly into each other. 
Yes, God is preparing a family of saints to 
love Him and one another with a love which 
the whole creation groaned and travaileth to 
see manifested ; and this deep love is begotten 
in sorrow's vale. Here, amid these dark, 
sweet, sad soul-trials, He is weaving heart to 
heart, spirit to spirit, in ties that no angel 
bosom can feel, and fitting them to " sing a 
new song" never heard in heaven before — the 
song of sympathetic love which Jesus shares 
with us through His sorrows ; for the " Cap- 
tain of our salvation is made perfect through 
suffering." It was once my privilege to at- 
tend a saint of the Lord who for forty years 
had been an intense sufferer from acute rheu- 
matism. One morning, just before his death, I 
asked him, " Well, Mr. Merritt, what have you 
been meditating about to-day?" 'The an- 
gels," he said. "What about the angels?" 
I asked. " I have been thinking why we should 
have a better inheritance than they." " Why 
do you think we will?" '* Because our trials 


and conflicts are greater than theirs/' he 

Again, these sorrows and trials fit us for the 
duties of life, and show us God's way. When 
Zacharias recovered speech, God's kingdom, 
Christ's nearness, was the theme of his first 
praise ; not his own son, or the hopes of his 
own line of priesthood, but " hath raised up 
a horn of salvation for us in the house of His 
servant David." Ah, how brightly the stars 
come out after the storm-clouds roll away, and 
with what loveliness they look down on us 
through the purified atmosphere ! So with our 
souls. When our sorrow is truly godly sor- 
row, and the clouds pass, heaven, with all its 
stars of hope, seems so much nearer. God's 
ways reach before us, and God's plans unfold 
for us with a personal sweetness, a wideness of 
joy before unfelt, and we cry with David, 
"It is good for me that I have been af- 
flicted." It is worth while to go, Jacob-like, 
halting on a shrunken thigh through the rest 
of life's pilgrimage to be a real Prince of God. 

And sorrow gives us a real and true view of 
our surroundings, our blessings, our trusts, and 


our ties of relationship. Now could Zacharias 
see truly the mission of John. There is not 
one word of parental selfishness, not one 
breathing for earth's claim upon him. He 
does not even say " my child," but yields him 
up to the great work of God with a deep, glad 
willingness, a joy like that of Hannah when 
she dedicated Samuel to her God. To these 
parents the ordinance of circumcision was more 
than a formal ceremony, it was a living real- 
ity, and God's obligatory requirement of the 
parent, an obligating of entire and honest 
yielding and training of the child for God. 
Zacharias says of John, " Thou shalt go be- 
fore the face of the Lord to prepare his ways." 
Blessed and lofty parental realization !' holy 
and grand calling for his boy ! Would God that 
Christians did more fully enter into this glory, 
and flee to this safety for their children to-day ! 
But how few yield them up to the service of 
God. Where are the Abrams, Hannahs, and 
Zacharias of this age ? Alas, alas ! When we 
would speak of lofty, heroic consecration, a life 
of service and a death of glory for the children 
of the wealthy and great now, they would say, 


as Simon Peter of old, " Far be it from thee," 
my child ; as if God dishonored their children 
or robbed them of happiness by the hardships 
of His service, not knowing that thus they are 
winning immortal laurels and crowns of unfad- 
ing glory, and are only " suffering with Him 
that they may also reign with Him." 

Had we more silent, true communings with 
God ; meditated we more deeply and faith- 
fully and truthfully upon the realities, eternal 
as well as temporal, of life ; did we but pass 
oftener and lower " under the rod" of our God, 
with hearts more deeply bowed to His will, we 
would see and grasp these heavenly glories 
for our children ; would lose sight of what a 
child was to be to us in the glory of what he 
would be to his God, and baptism would be- 
come an act in which the child would be as 
wholly and faithfully offered up to God as was 
Isaac on the Mount of God : so parent and 
child would be blessed in an eternal relation- 
ship of glory. 



"And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was 
in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel." — ■ 
Luke i : So. 


N order to lift religion there must be a high- 
er soul-centre to attract. One must take a 
stand nearer to God, and call others up to him. 
When the philosopher Archimedes said, ** Give 
me a point without the world, and I will lift 
the world," he uttered a truth far deeper than 
his material philosophy could ever reach — a 
truth on which rests the restoration of the 
fallen souls of men. God is educating John 
the Baptist to be the greatest reformer of the 
Mosaic dispensation ; and in order to fit him 
for the work He sends him, not to any school 
or society of men, but to the deerj solitudes of 
the desert. There is a time, a state of society 
and religion when true education can only be 
had by seclusion therefrom — a time when the 


whole moral and religious atmosphere becomes 
so impregnated with clouds and mists of 
wrong, and so enslaved to the fear and opin- 
ions of men, that we must go into solitude and 
there ask our hearts, " What sayeth the Lord ?" 
We must flee from the ever-shifting sands on 
time's sea-shore, flee from the ceaseless rush 
and confusion of its breaking billows, into 
some quiet desert mountain, and there listen 
to the surgings of eternity within .us. Here, 
arid here alone, will we catch the sound of im- 
mortal truth ; here will we get a view of the 
everlasting hills ; here will we feel the strong 
presence of the living God pressing in brawny 
reality close up to life's daily duties. And 
here, then, it was that God sent the " greatest 
of woman born," to form and harden that life 
until in its lone greatness it should bow the 
hearts of a nation as the tempest bows the 
trees of the forest. Let us go into the deserts 
with the soul of this great man, and see him in 
God's great 'school. " He 'grew." Though 
he was " filled with the Holy Ghost, even 
from his mother's womb," as the Angel Ga- 
briel expressly foretold, yet he grew. What 


would fill his mind, heart, and powers as 
an infant would not fill them as a boy of 
ten, and what would fill them at ten years 
of age would sadly fail at sixteen. So he 
must needs keep growing without and within. 
The child lived with God, and his yearning 
heart stretched itself out to God, and opened 
its depths for God. His book was the book of 
Eternal Truth, and his soul sought to lay hold 
thereof, and to bring forth its naked realities. 
He studied God and man through God. He 
proved God a living, surrounding, unfailing real- 
ity. He saw the mighty purposes of Jehovah 
marching with firm, relentless tread straight on 
to fulfil the Omnipotent will, despite all the 
obscurities and delusions of men. He felt that 
the heart of religion centred not in Gamaliel 
or Hillel, the Pharisee's Council or the 
Lawyer's school, but that it beat with the 
warm throbs of Omnipotent purpose and love 
in the bosom of God. 

The vision of this truth made him intensely 
real. He did not go into the wilderness to 
study poetry or indulge sentiment ; he went 
there to grapple with the sinfulness of his na- 


ture ; went to join the great battle against the 
enemies of his soul. Much has been written 
and said by great and good men of the help 
John received, and the joys he inhaled from 
the beauties and glories of nature, as unfolded 
in the material surroundings. I would say, the 
holy page does not so present him. There are 
no traces of the poet left in his composition 
when he comes forth ; but he is covered with 
the scars of many a battle. His tread is that 
of the stern, conquering hero of many sad and 
sore hand-to-hand conflicts. His voice is that 
of the great commander still leading up his 
legions against an enemy whose strength he 
has felt, and whose terrible presence he real- 
izes with vivid certainty, but realizes in a full, 
firm confidence of his power to overcome. 

It is a dangerous thing to go into the great 
solitudes of life to bury ourselves in sentiment, 
and come forth poets or artists seeking a world's 
approval rather than its salvation ; come forth 
to live on the mere sentiments or dreams of a 
heart, never to be put into real life. The true 
poetry of life is not in word, but in action ; 
not in a dream, but in a living conquest ; and if 


we cannot act ; if fear, indifference, or weak- 
ness have chained us and led us away captives, 
it is better we should " hang our harps on the 
willows, and sit down and weep by the waters 
of Babylon." Never, never should we content 
ourselves by the echoes of grand sentiments 
rolling through inactive lives. John did not 
so learn God. He grew in purpose, and when 
he came forth on the banks of Jordan and 
stood before assembled Israel, it was not with 
pretty sentiments, but vivid consciousness of 
awful reality, with the thunderings of '■* the 
wrath to come" resounding in his ears. 
Surely, surely life is too real and its issues too 
imminent and awful to permit of anything but 
intense, earnest action, as direct and strong as 
God's grace will lead us. If there is poetry, 
let it be the poetry of the soul-seeker, the 
song of deliverance, or of Moses and the 
Lamb, and not an echo from the mere Kosmos 
(the material world of the Greeks). 

Again, John " waxed strong in spirit." This 
was another result of his schooling in the 
desert. He was gathering strength silently in 
the great conquest of self. His soul was wax- 


ing mighty in purpose. He was gathering up 
life's great forces, and bathing them over and 
over in the purposes of God until they were 
becoming brawny with the essence of Omnipo- 
tence. He was not scattering or squandering 
the powers of his soul, as we see so many 
thousands doing to-day. Here is one of the 
greatest dangers and disasters of our time. 
Men and women squander their soul powers. 
They become partners in a thousand enter- 
prises, and pleasures, and plans, until they be- 
come weak along the whole line of their char- 
acters. They never learn what Jesus meant 
when He told Martha she was "troubled 
about many things: one thing is needful." 
Yes, we are losing the power of soul concen- 
tration in holy things, and falling away by try- 
ing to be many masters. Even in the offices 
of the sacred ministry, sermons, falsely so 
called, have claimed and gotten so much time 
and thought that it is a rare thing to find a man 
now who, like the Apostles of old, is willing 
to go up to this battle in the power and dem- 
onstration of the Holy Spirit, carrying every- 
thing by the intensity of that Gospel which 


" is the power of God unto salvation." 
' They who take the sword will perish by the 
sword/' for they rely thereon more than on 
the presence of the Jesus who stands appar- 
ently bound and powerless in the hands of 
men ; but remember, it was just at this very 
moment He said, " Put up thy sword," and 
" I could pray the Father, and He could 
presently give me more than twelve legions of 
angels." ' The Jews will require a sign, and 
the Greeks seek after knowledge," but only 
Jesus can be " the power of God unto salva- 
tion," even though a " stumbling-block to 
the Jew, and foolishness to the Greek." St. 
John knew this in his honest dealings with his 
own soul ; he learned to look up to the hills 
from whence came his strength, and lead men 
to the Rock that was higher than he, and there 
leave them. Gathering up all his soul-powers, 
concentrating them on God and His will, the 
man "waxed strong in spirit," and his pur- 
pose became like a river — vast, irresistible, 
sweeping on in its course with a mighty con- 
quest, to rest in the boundless sea of his God's 
own eternal depths of glory. 


Every life has its desert period — those 
grand, solemn days when God calls us out of 
the world's noises to commune in deep con- 
sultation with Him until the soul's purposes 
are shaped, and the characters of our immortal 
spirits formed. These are the days of destiny, 
these the birth-hours of all that is really great 
for us ; times when we are truly born again if 
we will be, or when we rush back and plunge 
into the troubled sea of unregenerate exist- 
ence, never to find rest. If we look back down 
the long line of God's heroic ones, we will find 
each had his wilderness. Abel must have lived, 
as it were, in the desert with God until His 
life was true enough to be poured out as a 
drink-offering, not only for God but for you 
and me : yes, that true blood speaks to us in 
grand soul - girding tones to - day. Enoch, 
Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, dwelt 
all their lives in the grand deserts of existence, 
and tabernacled with God. Moses, David, 
Daniel, Elijah, Jeremiah — yea, all God's great 
ones were caused to turn their backs on a 
world and face the truths of the living God, 
until those truths rose up in them to march in 


triumph, through the opposition of men and 
devils, to glorious victory. 

Now, as then, God calls us to the wilder- 
ness school — calls us out to uncover the great 
purposes of truth before us, and sends us back 
to stand up for Him, regardless of all the surg- 
ings of sin, applause, fear, or death. Here, and 
here alone, is the safety of any church, age, or 
man, in " the kingdom of God within ;" true- 
ness to the great ideal of life realized, as the 
soul in its lone consecration stretches itself on 
the naked will of God, and feels the strong 
beatings of His eternal purposes of Truth, Jus- 
tice, and Love. 


god's messenger. 

" There was a man sent from God whose name was 
John." — John i : 6. 

T E was a man, brawny, true, and grand. 
*■ ■*■ John did no miracle, wore no priestly 
robe, moved not with the multitude's favor like 
" a reed shaken by the wind, ' ' sought no political 
preferments, was backed by no patronage from 
sect or school, favored by no party in power. 
John had no towering temple above him, no 
company of sweet singers around him, no time- 
honored ritual guiding him. He was severed 
from friend and family ; independent, for " his 
meat was locusts- and wild honey," and his robe 
camel's hair. Girded for action, with the staff 
of his pilgrimage, he stands before the world 
in the might of his God. Without order of 
logical precision or ornament of rhetoric, his 
trumpet voice waked the valleys of Jordan, 


echoed along the wild, craggy mountains of 
Judea, startling a nation deep in darkness, 
deadness, and sin, into dread solicitude ; untiL 
the beggar from the street and the king from 
his throne tremble before the thunder of his 
powerful words, which bend the multitudes 
as the breeze bends the fields of ripening 

Where lay his power? Where was hidden 
the suasive strength of this mightier than Sam- 
son ? He was wanting in everything that his 
contemporaries trusted for power, and he 
would be pronounced by men of this day sadly 
deficient in the " sine qua nojis" of ecclesias- 
tical armor, i.e., some church's approval ; but 
despite all this he was mightier than they all, 
and compelled their hearts to bow to the 
greatness of his mission. The answer comes 
back, " He was a man sent from God." He 
knew this, he felt it, he trusted it, and in this 
trust stood strong and sure high up on the 
great Rock of Ages, unmoved by all the sad, 
restless surgings of the multitudes below ; for 
his soul rested above all the torrents that 
swept and swayed among their lower aims and 


passions, above the tremblings and crashings 
of their worldly doubts and fears. Yes, " he 
was a man sent from God," and God had 
charged his soul with power as real as that 
which moves in the bosom of the black mid- 
summer's cloud and speaks in the thunder's 
voice. He can make a man wake the na- 
tion's souls from their slumbers as easily as 
He can make the sun call forth the spring with 
its life. 

Come, now, and let us look into this mighty 
man's soul. God had sent a message from 
heaven saying, "He shall go before him in the 
spirit and power of Elias." This is the out- 
line of his character : let us trace it as deep as 
God's sight permits. 

" The spirit of Elias" : that great heroic 
spirit that could come wild-clad all alone from 
the mountains of Giiead, and pass with daunt- 
less eye and firm tread through all the guards 
of an Ahab's palace, until he stood facing the 
idolatrous monarch, and then with stern, un- 
quivering voice thunder God's judgments into 
his ears ; a spirit that could brook sin no 
more on the throne and in the court than on 


the street or in the hovel ; that spirit that 
stands "before the living God" and looks at 
sin in all the awful realities as it glares by the 
revelations of that holy light ; that spirit that 
loses all aims of earth in the great burning 
zeal for the glory of God ; that spirit which 
cares more for men's souls than for men's 
praise, more for their salvation than their tem- 
poral pleasure ; a spirit that feels the living 
touch of the living God in each duty of life, 
and hears the great surgings of eternal conse- 
quences ; a spirit that can dare a king or 
court a desert with equal joy or fearlessness ; 
a spirit that can stand as joyfully and great 
amid the solitudes of the desert, receiving its 
daily food from the unclean raven's beak, and 
feel as content and glorious as when it stands 
on Mount Carmel and sees heaven's fire de- 
scending from the living God in answer to its 
prayer, and hears the great shout of a trem- 
bling nation owning its God to be Jehovah ; a 
spirit that can go to the brook Chereth at the 
command of its God, and there sit through 
the long' years of trial with obedient joy — sit 
while the curse of God deepens on the land of 


wickedness, and the parching breath of dearth 
withers field and forest, dries fountain and 
riv r er, sit watching the little streamlet's waters 
fail day by day, as if God's curse were pur- 
suing him too, still sit without one doubt or 
misgiving, drinking and living more from the 
promise of his God than the brook before him, 
but grandly standing at his lonely, God- ap- 
pointed post until that God shall relieve him. 
Yes, this is the spirit in which John the Bap- 
tist stands to run his mighty course before the 
face of the Son of God. And he came, too, 

" In the power of Elias. " Elias burst be- 
fore a world in the sublime company of the liv- 
ing God, unattended by any earthly court or 
auxiliaries. He had the arm of God as his 
legions. His power was the glorious might of 
eternal truth, born in his soul during those 
great battles of loneliness in the deserts, 
wherein he had taken hold of the strength of 
the living God. Oh, why is it that men do so 
discard this strength, and turn to the help of 
man which is so vain — man, whose " breath is 
in his nostrils," and who will perish as the 
grass ? Truly, power belongeth unto God, and 


these mighty men realized this, and with all 
their souls laid hold of it. They both gathered 
power from the same grand source, and were 
both marshalled in the same glorious presence, 
that of the living God. The power of right 
and truth was in their hearts, and we now 
trace the likeness in the effects of this power. 

Both startled and awed a nation. At Eli- 
jah's command Israel assembled on Mount 
Carmel. John the Baptist called, and Israel 
assembled on the banks of the Jordan. At 
the sign of God called forth by Elijah's prayer, 
Israel cried out, " The Lord He is God ! the 
Lord He is God !" At the command of John 
the nation was " baptized, confessing their 
sins." If an Ahab trembled before Elijah, a 
Herod trembled before John. If the priests 
of Baal fell before Elijah, the scribes and Phar- 
isees fell before John. Elijah wielded his 
power in the execution of miracles, and "John 
did no miracle ;" but John was just as strong 
and real in the consciousness of God's help 
and presence, and his power was none the less 
glorious and live because it was not clothed 
in a miraculous garb. The grandest use of 


power is to manifest God, and this is done far 
oftener without than with miracles. The results 
of John's display of God's power are just as 
real, lasting, and glorious as those of Elijah. 
Elijah stands before us, burning amid the 
severities of Law like the flames on Sinai amid 
the darkness of midnight. John the Baptist 
shows us those fierce beacon flames paling 
amid the exceeding glory of the morn, as the 
" Sun of Righteousness," rising, spreads His 
healing wings over the earth. The power of 
each was true unto death. Neither of these 
great champions of God ever lowered his arm 
in the arena. Elijah swept on brighter, more 
victorious, until he mounted the chariot of fire 
and ascended to his God ; while John moved 
straight on, unshaken amid all the dark clouds 
of adversity, unmoved amid all the thunders 
of wrath or the burnings of hate, leaning on 
the arm of his God, in the mighty grandeur 
of his lone trueness, passes up through the 
martyr-gate into the rank of the [mightiest of 
woman born. 

" When loyal hearts and true 
Stand ever in the light, 
All rapture through and through, 
In God's most holy sight." 



' ; In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the 
wilderness of Judea." — Matt. 3:1. 


HE days when Tiberius polluted the 
throne of the Roman Empire ; the days 
when Pontius Pilate was grinding the hearts of 
the nation to madness by his cruelties, extor- 
tions, and arrogancy ; the days when a Herod 
Antipas lived in open adultery with his brother's 
wife, and led off into all that could degrade, 
corrupt, and destroy social greatness and do- 
mestic purity ; the days when Caiaphas and 
Annas divided the functions of the high 
priest, and disgraced the office they usurped ; 
the days when the balance of power rested in 
the hands of unprincipled Herodians, or, worse 
still, that awful horde of tyrants, the Sad- 
ducees, made cruel and hard by the oblitera- 
tion of any belief in the life hereafter. No be- 


lief or unbelief under heaven can more effec- 
tually curse and demonize the use of power 
than that which hides from the soul all dread 
of a judgment to come. Woe, woe to that 
nation and people when their rulers in high 
places wax bold in this blindness, for they are 
sure to send public oppression, private debauch- 
ery, and desecration through the land. At 
such times as these, natural instincts of purer 
natures draw strongly toward lives of lonely 
seclusion ; they, like David, crave the " wings 
of a dove wherewith to fly away and be at 
rest." But lo ! it is just into such a vortex we 
see John the Baptist stepping, a lone champion 
in this terrible arena. 

He comes ! Long had he buried his soul in 
the desert loneliness, and bathed it in the pur- 
poses and powers of his God until it is strong 
enough to rise in this lone night and breast all 
the powers that sweep in such wild devasta- 
tion over the world, and he feels the spirit of 
God leading him up into the battle. True 
religion cannot hide from the conflict any more 
than the strong wing of the eagle can remain 
quietly folded in its lonely nest. Courage, 


heroic and conquestive, is as really a part, and 
as vital a part, of true religion as faith, hope, 
and charity. Only " to him that overcometh" 
does Jesus hold out " the tree of life," "tri- 
umph over the second death," the hidden 
manna, " the white stone and the new name," 
the power over the nations and the morning 
star, " the white robe and a name in the book 
of life," "a pillar in the temple of his God 
whereon is written the name of God," " New 
Jerusalem," and the'' new name of the Lamb," 
and finally, " to sit down with Him on His 
throne." Away, then, with that religion 
which would dream itself away, or merely send 
up an echo of sentimental sympathy when the 
enemies of souls and God are pressing so hard. 
No, no, brethren ; like John the Baptist we 
must come, and come in a power we receive 
from God. John came as John the Baptist, 
not John the priest. God loves to honor His 
glory in the man far more than the empty 
title of an office. It is God in man and not a 
title on man that is glorious ; the splendor 
and not the name of a star that gives it rank 
in heaven. 


But John came in the wilderness. He did not 
go to the temple or make any city synagogue 
his abode or college. In the wild virgin wil- 
derness, unmarred by man's tool or purpose, 
he stands to call " the hearts of the disobe- 
dient to the wisdom of the just." There are 
times when God must, as it were, seek a new 
starting point for His cause : when men, in 
their proneness to strip His laws and cere- 
monies of the spirit, cling with idolatrous 
superstition to the dead formality ; when they 
spend their time in garnishing the sepulchral 
form of what was once a living, moving, lov- 
ing reality, but which by their want of heart 
they have put to death as died the prophets of 
old, then God comes to teach them the mean- 
ing of the words, " I will have mercy and not 
sacrifice ;" comes to proclaim anew that He is 
not a cold, cruel, heartless formality, rolling 
forward to crush the weakness of the broken 
reed and quench the spark in the smoking 
flax, but that He has a great, loving, tender, 
strong, true spirit, yearning with infinite com- 
passion over this world of deep sorrow. When 
God comes to remove the obstructions of 


man's coldness and cruelty, and touch human- 
ity anew with the warmth of His heart, He 
loves to trample down dead forms and cause 
new life to burst from the mouldering heaps. 
He breaks the brazen serpent, and calls it 
" Nehushtan," a piece of brass (2 Kings 18:4). 
Abraham was led to the lone wilderness when 
he offered up Isaac in a figure. Jacob saw the 
heavens open for the first time as he lay on 
Bethel's lone stone. Moses must carry the 
children of Israel into the wilderness to re- 
ceive the Law. Elijah must call them to 
Mount Carmel ere he brings their hearts back 
to Jehovah. John the Baptist must " cry in 
the wilderness" the dawn of the new dispensa- 
tion. Jesus appoints, not Jerusalem the Jew- 
ish centre, not Athens the Grecian centre, not 
Rome the world's capital, but an obscure 
mountain in Galilee as the great centre from 
which His word moves forth, conquering and 
to conquer ; for there he met the apostles by 
special appointment and ordered their great 
army. Yes, John came in the wilderness, as 
free as the eagles that cleft the air above him, 
subject to the commission of their God and his 


God. He would raise no unnecessary ques- 
tion by entangling himself with the thousand 
petty formalities and dead ceremonies which 
the priestly school at Jerusalem cherished with 
idolatrous superstition. He would draw no 
self-righteous barriers whereby the publican, 
harlot, and sinner would be shut out from the 
ready access to the living word of the living 
God. He was sent to men and women of 
crushed lives and wounded hearts, and he 
would throw open the doors of his church as 
wide and free as the broad bosom of the wil- 
derness. No man should dictate what kind of 
Gospel he should preach. He would cumber 
his ministry with no obligations save those he 
received when he took orders from the spirit 
of the living God. His Gospel should be as 
free and God-toned as the winds that swept 
through the crags of those mountains and the 
waters that rolled through the bosom of Jor- 
dan. It was meet and fit that the " kingdom 
of heaven" should sound its first cry in this 
bold independence and Godlike liberality and 
freedom. And woe to those men who, loving 
the favor of men more than the favor of God, 


the patronage of men more than the salvation 
of their souls, dare narrow and exclude, barri- 
cade, fence off and classify when God sends 
them " to seek and to save that which is 
lost." Thus does God show that His power 
is not in the magnificence of surroundings or 
hoary associations ; but, " in spirit and in 
truth," warm, live, and sympathetic, it broods 
over the aching hearts of a world with the glo- 
rious invitation, " Whosoever will let him come 
and drink of the water of life freely." 



" His meat was locusts and wild honey." — Matt. 3 : 4. 

JESUS says, " Having food and raiment, there- 
with be content ;" and there is no grander 
illustration of it than in His great servant (and 
to that time a man than whom none was 
greater), John the Baptist. No man can read 
the Bible account of John without feeling the 
majesty of his presence, the commandings of 
his power. He still holds sway over the mul- 
titudes, he still stands, but in the majesty of 
his might against sin. The voice that once 
echoed along the banks of Jordan and through 
the wilds of Judea now resounds through 
every valley and along every mountain-side of 
Christendom. John the Baptist still towers 
like some great stern granite mount, whose 
lofty, heaven-aspiring brow stands unmoved by 


all the surges of ages or the tempests of cen- 

" His meat was locusts and wild honey," 
the plainest, simplest, cheapest food known 
among his people ; and it made him strong, 
bold, and fearless. It gave him an indepen- 
dence which blanched not before kings nor 
quailed before the armies of a corrupt nation 
and age. Now though he was sent of God, 
and was filled with God's spirit from his youth 
,up, yet he observed every law that tended to 
give him a heartier, grander manhood. He 
laid aside every weight to run the race set be- 
fore him. 

We gain independence by rising above the 
world. John had nothing to expect from 
earth's favor, and he feared nothing from its 
frown. He came to the banks of Jordan a 
conqueror. He came as one who had fought 
with the world and won the victory. He 
came forth to command, for he stood superior. 
What were earth's wants or glories to Him ? 
He had learned to do without its abundance, 
and to rejoice without its luxuries. His soul 
came into the full realization of the truth that 


"man shall not live by bread alone, but by 
every word that proceedeth out of the mouth 
of God;" and in this God-won liberty he 
stood, mighty and grand. Earth had not given 
him his power, earth could not take it away. 
He had no Achilles' heel, no vulnerable point. 
He came from God, and suffered no worldly 
interest to stand between him and that God, no 
earthly hope or fear to blunt the point of his 
message or parry the force of his thrust, for God 
was great in him, and he was great in the world. 
Surely there is a need for mighty men to- 
day. Surely the Church of God needs heroes 
after the type of John the Baptist. The 
world's oppressed millions need champions 
whose lives are full-armed and completely 
invulnerable to the powers of this world — men 
who seek nothing from its glories and fear 
nothing from its hatred. Then we are to look 
at the great laws of power whereby John the 
Baptist grew so strong. Jesus himself implies 
as much when he says, " The days will come 
when the bridegroom shall be taken from you, 
then shall ye fast." Jesus could eat and 
drink and be powerful, but John must abide 


by the law. " This kind goeth out only by 
prayer and fasting." And we must grow 
strong as did John, we must gain power and 
.overcome by observing the great laws of spir- 
itual power and independence. John went to 
God for power, and looked on earth as an 
element of weakness. We go to the earth for 
power, and try to fight Goliath in Saul's ar- 
mor. John, all his life long, was trying to re- 
duce his earthly wants to the minimum ; we 
try to increase them to the maximum. John 
tried to live above the power of man, that he 
might live more fully in the power of God. 
Do you not see that our great tendency to 
trust earth and earth's is one of weakness? 
Do you not see that we dare not rebuke sin as 
John the Baptist did, lest it be said to us, 
" Physician, heal thyself?" If, like those of 
Tyre and Sidon, our country is nourished by a 
worldly Herod's domains, we must try to keep 
peace (Acts 12 : 20). What we get from 
God, not from earth, makes us strong. They 
who have set their hearts on earthly attain- 
ments (and no one will spend a lifetime's toil 
to accumulate them who has not), must ever, 


like the young ruler, go away sorrowing, to 
sunder the ties and break the cords with which 
they bind him. 

We must overcome the world or it will 
overcome us. We must cast away every cher- 
ished prospect, and pull down every hope that 
prevents us or draws us back from following 
God with all our hearts. W r e must sacrifice 
idol after idol, hope after hope, cut cord after 
cord, and remove prop after prop, until w r e 
feel at liberty to speak and act for God, and 
God alone. We must realize there is a great- 
ness that is not earth-born, there is a wealth 
earth cannot give nor take away, there is a 
power that rests not on the opinions of men 
nor dies with their disapproval, there is a life 
that leans on the arm of the living God, and 
that alone — a great, lofty, truth-girded, right- 
defending, fearless life, beyond the wiles and 
darts of earthly danger. And we must press 
on in it. But oh, how different from this 
world-loving life, that saps the character and 
weakens the hardihood of Christian manliness ! 
We must achieve our independence of earth 
rather than by earth. 


Its worth. Ah, it is worth something to 
stand with our souls elevated by the side of 
John the Baptist, face to face with truth and 
right, at perfect liberty to speak and act for 
them without fear or hesitation ; to tread 
this earth in company with the great princi- 
ples of God, nor stoop to defile our manhood 
in the dust of earthly abundance ; to press 
on, seeking every moment the kingdom of God 
and His righteousness, hiding life in God ; to 
be able to look at all earth's fickle rewards 
and dark threats unmoved, with a deep con- 
sciousness of safety, as the eagle from his Al- 
pine height looks down on the flashing storm 
below. Yes, this brings a manhood deep and 
grand and lofty, a character that will stand 
single-handed against a world. Jesus knows 
where the source of true power dwells, and 
the secret paths thereunto", and His every com- 
mand brings us nearer to the helm, but strips 
us of the power of man to clothe us with the 
power of God, and make our loneness in earth's 
arena companionship in heaven's host. By 
the very nakedness in which He calls us into 
the battle He incases us full, strong, and secure 


in the whole armor of God. So "shall thy 
light break forth as the morning, and thine 
health shall spring forth speedily : and thy 
righteousness shall go before thee : the glory 
of the Lord shall be thy rearward" (Isaiah 
58 : 8). 



"The voice of one crying in the wilderness." — Matt. 
3 :3- 

' I 'HE true preacher is more than a mere 
-*- sound. He is a voice, an utterance 
from life, and that the life of God. God 
really speaks, and speaks with a tone of power 
that awes. It was not John's elocution, but 
John's real living power that commanded 
those vast multitudes, and held them firm 
while the pealings of God's law thundered in 
their midst, arousing to an awful sense and 
trembling dread of condemnation. Yes, God 
has honored the human voice more than any 
other instrument to make earth feel the near- 
ness and reality of His living presence. And 
powerfully did He so through the voice of 
John. People heard the voice of that lone 
man in all the sublimity of his naked grandeur, 


and they felt that those tones broke from a 
mighty life within, that this was a voice, a liv- 
ing voice of a living power, and no dead echo 
from the charnel-house of formality. It was a 
cry alive with reality that men heard, startling 
the mountain wilds and echoing along Jordan's 

But there is a phase of John's life we shall 
speak of here, though it be but a secondary 
idea in the text ; for surely it was of no small 
consideration to John himself, and can never 
be to any great heart in life's struggles. And 
it is this : 

John's loneliness in life. Yes, we realize 
his loneliness in those long years of wilderness 
conflict, from which he comes one of earth's 
grandest and truest heroes. But this loneli- 
ness when one removes from men to seek God 
is not the loneliness that bows spirits and 
breaks hearts, for there the soul goes for a 
communing and a companionship it is sure to 
find if in earnest. But when a heart has strug- 
gled through the delusions of its age, sailed 
out on the great sea of truth beyond the fogs 
and shoals that envelop and threaten the re- 


ligion of the people, beyond the din of pub- 
lic and popular error, sees, feels, realizes, and 
roots itself in the hopes and powers of the new- 
found life, and then comes back seeking com- 
panionship — alas, how lonely! — 'tis not "as 
one who treads alone some banquet hall de- 
serted," but " as one who treads alone some 
banquet hall" full crowded, which is a far 
greater loneliness, and one that fills the soul 
with a deeper heart-ache, an intenser yearn- 
ing for sweet companionship. John felt this. 
He stood alone, for he had gone many long 
heart-journeys through those days of soul-con- 
flict in the desert ; and though men could hear 
" the voice of one crying in the wilderness," 
none could come alongside the great soul of 
the lonely preacher. John lived alone with his 
God, but lived for his fellow-men. He was 
not a reed among reeds, nor a courtier in the 
midst of a court. His life stands out as one 
lone, grand, lofty mountain-peak among his 
fellow-men. Not even one word from his fond 
parents echoes to us of the days when his 
heart felt for companionship. There are no 
verdant scenes of life's young spring-tide to 


soften the stern loneliness of this " more than 
a prophet, this man sent from God." He 
was " the voice of one, " for there was no other 
heart on earth that saw and felt life as he did, 
save the heart of Jesus, and with this heart he 
communed far more in the solitude of prayer 
than in the halls of conversation or the walks 
of bodily contact. 

Now here is a lesson that will help you and 
me in our conflicts and waitings. We all find, 
sooner or later, that as far as this world is con- 
cerned life is a great loneliness, and the deeper 
into its battles we press the fewer will be the 
spirits beside us, and the lonelier we will 
feel among men ; yet this is God's way, and 
there is not one of the heroic characters in 
His word who did not tread this way. 

To be true we must live much alone, and 
possess that power of soul which constantly 
hushes the storm and stills the surrounding 
tumult of men's aims and plans to hear the 
voice and see the way of God. We must set 
out fully reckoning on journeys of soul in 
which no other soul can accompany us, how- 
ever yearning and pining our longings therefor 


may be. We must be sure that we will have 
great, deep, heavy heart-burdens which we 
must take up and carry on all alone, save with 
Jesus. We must expect to stand in battles 
where much that is nearest and dearest in 
this life confronts us. If we are' live Christians 
we will every day be compelled to wage war 
against those who crush the spirit of the Gos- 
pel by the formality of the Gospel — as one 
has truly said, " defend the spirit of the past 
against the institutions of the past ;" and 
this with the heart-ache of loneliness. Ah ! 
Jesus saw and felt all of this for you and me 
when He said, " Ye shall be hated of all men 
for my name's sake." 

As we feel this great desolation, let us look 
on the heroic bearing of God's mighty ones 
gone before. See Abel by his lone offering ; 
Enoch, in his lone, grand walks with God ; 
Noah, as he stands alone toiling all those long 
years of faith, misunderstood and abused by 
all that saw him ; Abraham, called out from 
among his people, and feeling the stern call of 
duty separating him from the companionship 
even of his own child. Jacob lived, as it were, 


a life of loneliness from that night when, house- 
less and homeless, he lay and dreamed of God's 
accompanying angels at Bethel ; no man from 
that day forward seems to have entered the 
great current of his life. Joseph triumphed in 
a strange land, and lived alone amid the court 
where he was idolized, and we hear this lone- 
liness breaking out in the touching charge ut- 
tered from his death-bed, when he asks that 
his bones may be carried up from the land of 
Egypt at some far distant day and laid beside 
the dust of those great men whose souls' foot- 
prints his spirit had been following all through 
life, and to whom he felt nearer than to those 
who touched him in the body. Moses lived 
alone. Israel could catch only the aims, and 
now and then see the towerings of that soul. 
There was as really a veil over his heart as 
over his face, which men, because of their 
weakness, could not lift. And so Samuel, 
David, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, and all the proph- 
ets, thronged by men, yet alone they lived, 
for they stood, looked, and lived above and 
beyond the companionship of the souls about 
them ; and while this very loneliness was one 


of life's hardest, it was also and is still one of 
its grandest and most heroic pages and loftiest 
battle-fields. But there is no loneliness that 
compares for one moment with that which 
Jesus suffered. Of a truth "He trod the 
wine-press alone, and of the people there was 
none with Him." Misunderstood all through 
life — for His great soul lived way up where 
man's as yet cannot reach, though each cen- 
tury is rolling the bosom and heart of Christ- 
endom nearer His own — we see and feel the 
life and light of Jesus permeating and touch- 
ing the heart of humanity as the sun of spring 
does the heart of nature, and gradually yet 
grandly we begin to see and feel the purposes 
of His great life lighting and touching hu- 
manity into life and beauty. 

But this loneliness of life has an end for 
God's children. In that " glorious rest that 
remaineth for the people of God, "where many 
shall come, from north, east, south, and west, 
and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and 
Jacob in the kingdom of God, then loneliness 
will be gone, and gone forever, and these 
great hearts that have been made heroic in 


their mighty lone battles' and burdens of life 
shall meet and have each other forever ; for 
heaven is not only a putting together of God's 
own true great ones, but also a joining of God's 
great, deep dealings with our souls. We are 
all members one of another, and when Jesus, 
our head, shall unite us, " every joint" shall 
supply its joy and power. Then shall we meet 
the heroic spirit of our beloved John the Bap- 
tist, and love it all the deeper and stronger for 
its brave, lone stand it made for you, for me, 
for truth, for God, in the days when the " king- 
dom of heaven suffered violence." Till then 
the future hope is strong enough for us when 
our Lord is with us, and He hath said, " I will 
never leave thee nor forsake thee." Yes, He 
lives in life's inner chamber, in the soul's deep- 
est battles, burdens, and hopes, until we are 
ready and clothed with immortality, to see, 
meet, and be like Him, and with Him enter 
into the fulness of joy ; for by Him we will be 
led into the deepest companionship of every 
spirit in heaven. 




" Repent ye." — Matt. 3 : 2. 

HIS was no less the requirement of God 
than the need of man. John's faith-lit 
vision saw by the light of God's goodness this 
deep need of the human soul, and these words, 
strange as it may seem, were the call to rest. 
Man hates to repent, hates to set the seal of 
disapproval on his own doings ; his proud 
heart smarts and burns at the thought, for he 
wants to be counted true and right before 
men, even when he knows that within he is 
false and wrong. He does not want earth to 
see his foulness and shame. Yet he must re- 
pent ere that spirit within him can have rest, 
ere he can look himself square in the depths of 
his soul and say, " Thou art now an honest 
man." Painful as it is, the thorn must be 
withdrawn ere the wound can heal ; the cor- 


ruption must be found out ere the ulcer's pain 
will cease. So they who would preach only a 
soft, soothing gospel are cruelly false. They 
would cry " Peace, peace, when there is no 
peace." They would talk soothingly to the 
deep agonies of a heart without extracting the 
serpent's fang. They would try to pillow the 
soul on a lie, and soothe the prodigal while he 
sits feeding the swine and perishing of hunger. 
Ah ! that boy must go back to his father, and 
go back with a heart conscious of his sonship, 
scaTred, marred, and shamed, but conscious at 
last of an honest sincerity down beneath it all 
that he is true of heart. 

I once asked a Roman Catholic priest, 
" Suppose one came to confession and only 
told you a part of the sin, hiding the rest from 
you, and you became conscious of it, what 
'would you do ?" " Have nothing to do with 
the hypocrite," he said. Every sinner is a 
hypocrite until he confesses to God his sin, 
and he is guilty until he repents. Mercy can- 
not heal the heart-wounds of sin until they are 
repented of. She cannot separate the sins from 
the sinner until the sinner hates the sin and 


disclaims it as a part of himself. A man may 
come and plunge a dagger into my body with 
intent to slay. As he withdraws it, dripping 
and warm with my blood, I may say, " I for- 
give you ;" but that pardon takes no effect, 
carries home no peace, so long as he repents 
not ; he must be a murderer, and blood must 
stain his soul ; yet the instant that soul dis- 
claims the foul deed and throws it from him, 
that instant he ceases to be the man he was, 
and may embrace my forgiveness. His soul 
and mine may meet as new beings and with 
new hopes ; meet with a rest sweet and deep 
in proportion to the sincerity of faith with 
which he repents and I forgive, and our trust 
in each other's sincerity. Had John taken 
counsel with the wise (so called) men of his 
age they would doubtless have counselled a 
very different course, just as their representa- 
tives do now. Go softly, speak gently, per- 
suade without offence, give mercy, but talk 
not of judgment. Ah ! John cared too much 
for man and God to listen for one moment to 
such suicidal policy. He saw the hearts of 
men, saw sin gnawing hungrily at their souls, 


saw their inner strifes, and heard the dull sigh- 
ings of the sufferers, and boldly and grandly 
he called out the remedy : " Repent ye." The 
inner life and its great future were the most 
important things he saw in man or for man, and 
like one true to his fellow-men he calls for the 
uprising of good and the downcasting of evil 
in them. He called the prodigal to rise and 
come face to face with his sin, that he might 
press heart to heart with his father. To him 
there was no shame in repenting wrong that he 
might be right, but there was death and eter- 
nal shame in hiding sin that he might be for- 
ever wrong. 

The heart of the people responded to the 
trueness of John as the heart of one man. 
" Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all 
Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, 
and were baptized of him in Jordan, confess- 
ing their sins. " Oh, people do want honest, 
brave, true, strong dealings with the realities 
of time and. eternity. This question of salva- 
tion is, after all, one men cannot shake entirely 
off, nor can they completely hush the voice of 
conscience. Down deep in the human heart 


there is a capacity for a hereafter: the possi- 
bilities of heaven or hell set about with the 
thoughts of immortality and eternity ; and 
when a preacher, nerved by the spirit of the liv- 
ing God, rises strong and great enough to press 
through all the dead formalities and soul-de- 
luding ritualism which have for a long time 
hid the deep, festering wounds within, such* a 
preacher will be heard. The witness within 
men's own bosom will cry " It is the truth ; I 
know it, I feel it." John came and found 
just such a state of things. Pharisee, scribe, 
lawyer, and priest had been feeding the 
hungry souls on the dry husks of a lifeless and 
burdensome formality ; but John called them 
back along the plain path of truth toward the 
Father's house, and humiliating as was the 
path of repentance, it was warmed with a sym- 
pathy of trueness and lighted with the live- 
ness of hope that they had sought but failed 
to find in all the tangled forms and require- 
ments of men's traditions. Men went away 
from the baptism of John with a perceptible 
sense and realization that they had made a 
stride toward God, and stood nearer, stronger 


and more hopefully in His presence than when 
they came. The morning dew of the Gospel 
dispensation was fresh upon the ministry of 
John, even though the day had not yet 
dawned, and it breathed a fragrance of life 
they had never felt as they turned away from 
the death-scenes of blood-bathed altars, where 
skin bulls and goats could never take away 

It was indeed a day-dawn upon the souls of 
men when they heard and felt that by God's 
grace hearts might arise, and by the great 
mercy of God renounce and forsake the sins 
from which all the ceremonials on earth could 
not cleanse. Yes, this was a day that pro- 
claimed the royal priesthood of man himself, 
and drew him near to his God as a man. 
And they who would be mighty in the hands of 
God " to turn the hearts of the disobedient to 
the wisdom of the just" must ever labor to 
bring man face to face with his God and his 
Father. Grand and true to the needs of the 
human heart was that message of Jesus, " to 
ascend to my God and your God, my Father 
and your Father." Yes, as men listened to 


these words, and words like these, calling them 
to the sympathy and confidence of God, lead- 
ing their souls up to trust Him through all 
their imperfections, and to lay open before Him 
their deepest and sorest defects, assured that 
the good within them will be recognized and 
the trueness in them matured into stronger, 
deeper life : I say, w T hen men hear of these 
great callings from lips of deep sincerity, if 
there is any trueness, any remaining life, it will 
respond. And if you add, " for the kingdom 
of heaven is at hand," and throw wide the 
doors to an endless life to all true believers, 
then will the sincere penitent rush into it as if 
by violence, as they did in the days of John 
and Jesus. 

Thus, and thus only, comes that deep heart- 
rest that remaineth for the people of God. 
This is the path along which those who " labor 
and are heavy laden" come to Jesus for that 
rest. Yea, " Blessed are the pure in spirit, 
for theirs is the kingdom of God." 



For the kingdom of heaven is at hand." — Matt. 3 : 2. 

OT only did John unloose and cast away 

the heavy soul-burdens of past wrong 
and sin by leading men to sincere repentance, 
but he opened to the yearning heart the hope 
of a better future in these words : " For the 
kingdom of heaven is at hand." He dealt 
truly, strongly, restfully, and grandly with 
the past, hopefully, heroically, and glorious- 
ly with the future. If there is in the very 
nature of man, woven into his very woof of 
being, a capacity to surfer and agonize over 
the past wrongs sin has wrought on his soul, 
and he upon men and God — yes, if there is 
that something in every bosom which makes 
the torments of a future hell possible, which 
yields fuel for the unquenchable flame, and 
food for the undying worm — thank God there 
is also another something in man, as deeply 
and truly a part of his inner soul and being, ar 


capacity for the rest, purity, power, and com- 
munion of eternal years which makes heaven 
and God's fellowship a possibility. " Repent 
ye" escapes the past, " for the kingdom of 
heaven is at hand" opens the future. It is the 
answer to those words Job spoke for a world 
of human hearts when he said he longed to be 
where " the wicked cease from troubling, and 
there the weary be at rest." 

John had not gotten a one-sided idea of 
man during those long years of deep commun- 
ing with his God. He came forth from the 
wilderness of fasting and praying, not a cold, 
hard, cynical judge of human nature, for he 
had been too true to himself and too near to his 
God for that. If in the clear light of that close 
approach to God he had seen and felt with 
terrible reality man's fall, he had also seen 
and felt just as clearly and powerfully the hope 
of his rise again, and the majesty of his God- 
traced image on his soul. Yes, this he saw at 
a burning focus and preached with a startling 
emphasis. He spoke not as a Plato or Socra- 
tes, reasoning out the necessity of a hereafter, 
but as " a man sent from God," and seeing 


the realities of God. "The kingdom of 
heaven is at hand." These are the words of 
one who feels the presence of the King. 

God in the vastness of his love has so con- 
stituted us that we may press through the 
thick mists of years and realize the life and 
joy of what is to come, to the finite mind, but 
what is one eternal now to the infinite. We 
are startled as we read of the vivid expecta- 
tion which took hold of the lives of those great 
men of God's word — expectations, yea, reali- 
zations, which to the worldly mind seem actu- 
ally nothing ; but, despite all this, which lifted 
up and bore on the souls of their possession 
upon the current of life, strong, grand, vivid, 
and glorious, almost blending them with those 
of the angels of God. We hear of Abraham 
going out to the land of promise, one foot of 
which he never received, save as a burial- 
place. We read of Moses refusing the treasury 
of Egypt, yet living and toiling as an exile 
shepherd. But why enumerate ? for we have 
but to turn to the eleventh chapter of He- 
brews and read the great honor roll, which 
profane history may strive through all time to 


match, but strive in vain. Now Jesus speaks 
of this very mystery when He says, " Abra- 
ham rejoiced to see my day ; he saw it, and 
was glad." And after Christ had gone back 
to His Father we hear the apostles speaking 
as if they thought His second coming were 
very, very near. They, according to His own 
express command, went down into the valley 
with trimmed lamps and joyous hearts, as vir. 
gins go into the wedding-feast. And we ask, 
What mean all these strange delusions ? Ah, 
friends, they are no delusions, but living, glo- 
rious realities, that open up before the soul's 
rejoicing vision as it reaches on into the realm 
of the spiritual and eternal and stands face to 
face with the joyous unchangeableness of God. 
When the lawyer, who grasped the trueness of 
our Lord's words as He spoke of loving God 
with all the soul, mind, and heart, said, 
" Master, thou hast said the truth," the reply 
of Jesus was, " Thou art not far from the king- 
dom of God." Yes, the kingdom of God is 
within you, and as that inner life responds to 
and blends with the life of God, things pres- 
ent and things to come are united. Heaven 


touches the present, and '* the kingdom of God 
is at hand." Blessed is that man whose faith 
annihilates time, brings the weight and joy of 
eternity down upon the life he now lives, and, 
Enoch-like, walks with God ; for he scarcely 
feels the great weight of wrong in the pa- 
tient waitings for right ; but his sin-encom- 
passed soul, seeing and realizing so clearly and 
vividly the sway of God's sure, true judgments 
and rewards, rests, and for him oppressed time 
is swallowed up in righted eternity. 

John the Baptist was just such a man. He 
lived, spoke, worked, and endured as seeing 
His and Him who is invisible ; and he called 
men up to his side, and with a clear voice 
and steady hand pointed their weary, tossed 
souls to the life before his faith-lit vision.' 

In that day, as in all others, there were 
many who could not follow him fully, and 
some who would not attempt to follow. It is 
an awful power that God has left in the hands 
of men, to annihilate their capacity for realiz- 
ing Him, and little by little increasing the dis- 
tance between them and God until they ex- 
claim, with their hearts at war against God's 


purposes, as their great prototype Balaam, 
" I shall see Him, but not now ; I shall behold 
Him, but not nigh ;" and still pressing on 
away from God they descend into that deep 
darkness, and stand beside the man David so 
terribly describes when he says, " The fool 
hath said in his heart there is no God." Yes, 
believe me, it takes education to produce this 
midnight darkness within. I have never heard 
the most ignorant or degraded heathen whom 
I have met, and they have been many, doubt 
that there was a God — some kind of a God. It 
is only for the- soul hardened and rehardened 
in the glorious light of truths brighter than day 
to descend to this degradation. It is the voice 
of the prodigal son despising the long-en- 
joyed bounties of a father's love, speaking as 
he goes away from that great love. 

No wonder that plain hearts, dealing with 
the stern realities of a sin-cursed world, should 
crowd around the great preacher as words like 
these fall glowing from his burning heart. I 
tell you, the great vivid realizations of a 
preacher's heart mark his power more surely 
than the cold science of his reasoning. Man 


will believe what his heart clasps, and rejoices 
in it more quickly than for what his head 
gropes. John spoke from point-blank con- 
tact, and fired directly at the mark of human 
need and human hope, and he sent the truths 
of God crushing sin and conquering despair, 
until the nation rejoiced in his light, and felt 
the contact of higher, purer, liver, better 
things. And the hearts of the disobedient, 
thus touched, yearned for and turned to " the 
wisdom" and the life " of the just." 


" The axe is laid unto the root of the trees."— Matt. 3 : 10. 

JOHN'S soul was too deep in the spirit of 
his God to hide that God's purposes by 
formality. He had studied God as a living 
God, and had felt the beatings of His heart as 
clearly as he had seen the tracings of His hand, 
felt the yearnings of His love as strong as the 
splendors of His reason. He knew that God 
was more than a form : He was a life, and be- 
hind every plan was a purpose, from every tree 
there must come fruit. He once more went 
back as close to God as were Adam and Eve 
before the fall, who heard and felt the living 
presence moving amid the garden scenes ; and 
as he entered this presence-chamber of the 
King, and felt the measureless tides of His 
love :;weep through and over his soul, he was 
lifted by these powers up above and borne by 


them on beyond those men-teachers' cold, for- 
mal, " washing of cups," tithes of mint, anise, 
and cumin," buildings and garnishings of 
prophets' sepulchres. This it was that gave 
him power at one mighty stride and with a 
steady hand to lay the axe at the root of the 
tree, and speak those terrible words of warn- 
ing, breaking like herald thunders before the 
judgment crash. Coming straight from God 
to " prepare the way of the Lord," his warn- 
ings fell like the echoes of the Judge's own 
voice on the barrenness of the souls of men. 

He who is more afraid of disturbing the 
man-grown fungus about the ordinances of 
God than he is about their dishonoring the 
nature, purpose, mercy, and love of that God, 
can never be a reformer. A reformer is no 
patcher of ordinances, no compromiser with 
men, no conservative man ; he must be "a 
man sent from God," and his soul must be en- 
tirely pervaded, overwhelmed, and swept on by 
the aims, will, and nature of Jehovah. Thus, 
John did not descend among men to criticise 
their ritualism or discuss their inextricably 
tangled formalities. He stood in the pres- 


ence of God, and proclaimed the doom of all 
fruitlessness', come from what source it might, 
and through what countless combinations, 
conclusions, contortions, or neglects it might ; 
God had not been honored, and it must die. 

It is marvellous how Satan deludes and 
damns men with worry and perplexities about 
details. When Jesus told Martha " one 
thing Avas needful," He spoke a great law of 
safety, and that one thing is man's relation to 
his God. The compass must be correct, else 
all the worry and care about the rigging and 
canvas cannot hold the ship true to her course. 
So men must not make barren the ordi- 
nances, yea, the great heart-purposes of God, 
with their traditions. They must ever open 
His blessed word with the voice, echoing deep 
down in their hearts, " He will have mercy and 
not sacrifice, " struggling on up to be the chil- 
dren (with all the tenderness, liveness, and ful- 
ness of a child's love) of their " Father which 
is in heaven." 

John laid his hand with the stroke of a giant 
against all the false securities and relationships 
of a deluded materialism. Men had long been 


falling back upon the fact that they were chil- 
dren of Abraham, and trusting that God's love 
for Abraham would prove efficacious to them ; 
and all of this, too, in the very teeth of the 
prophet's utterance, " The soul that sinneth, it 
shall die." John crushed that hope as with a 
sledge-hammer of truth : " Think not to say 
within yourselves, We have Abraham to our 
father ; for I say unto you, that God is able of 
these stones to raise up children unto Abra- 
ham." Do not go back to the past for safety ; 
press on toward the mark until the race is 

Ah, it is a sad day for individual, state, or 
church when the eye of hope turns to the past 
when weakened children, sapped of energy 
enterprise, and hardihood, lean on their ances 
tors for support. " Your claim to sonship,' 
says St. John, "must be ratified by like na- 
ture ere it is good." In the higher life of 
God's kingdom, spiritual kinship alone lives. 
A true Lazarus, beggar though he be, may 
pillow his head on Abraham's bosom, while a 
princely Dives, claiming the sonship of Abra- 
ham, is told there is an impassable gulf be- 


tween them. Thus the very stones may, by 
God's power, assume a nature more in har- 
mony with that of God's kingdom than the 
hearts made harder than stones by abused 
love. Yes, thus spake the leather - girded 
preacher, and shook the foundations of men's 
belief. He crushed the empty casket, and 
showed its emptiness before their deluded 
souls. Truly did he prepare men to ask for 
Christ, without whose life-giving love, warm- 
ing, fruit-producing power, all their trusted 
system was but a shadow, a soul delusion. 

The same God, before whom John stood 
and spoke that day on the banks of Jordan, 
stands now here behind each professing heart, 
each religious system. His nature has not 
changed, His purpose has not shifted. His 
religion sent abroad into the world has been 
rebaptized in the blood of His only-begotten 
Son. Not only does He lay the axe at the root 
of the tree, but with His pruning-knife He 
passes through the branches, cutting away all 
fruitlessness. To-day you own Him as your 
King ; v but, as in John's time, so now, you 
must prove it ; your mere word is not sufficient ; 


the currents of life and onsets of the enemy are 
too strong and real for mere idle words or emo- 
tions. Simon Peter gave his word he would 
sooner die than betray Jesus, but in the dawn 
of day he had denied Him thrice. Ah ! men, 
devils, and God demand proof of your sincer- 
ity, and that proof is fruit ; not an act or two, 
but the result of a live nature in full play. 
Yes, it is a nature. We '* know a tree by its 
fruit." " Ye do not gather grapes of thorns, 
nor figs of thistles." You must be good to 
yield good, live Jesus to show the power of 
Jesus. We must attend to the roots of 
a tree to make it good. As the roots are 
hidden from sight, so the sources of a 
Christian's power are hidden within him 
— that inner devotion when the soul, in the 
great strength of secret love and confi- 
dence, lays hold of God. The outside world 
must not, cannot intermeddle here. " Ye are 
the temple of the living God." Yes, your 
heart is that true inner sanctuary where hourly 
sacrifices and incense are offered up. It is 
bringing thought, will, hope, love, feeling, and 
bathing them in the sweet, deep purposes of 


God. Look to your great silent moments of 
life, your moments of hushed inner devotion, 
of which David spoke when he said, " All my 
well springs are in thee." Like Samson, so 
long as your strength is a sweet secret between 
your heart and your God, so long will you be 
mighty in the armies of Jehovah. 

Here, at the beginning of the Gospel, we see 
the axe laid at the root of the tree, and hear 
God pledged to cut down the barren cumber- 
ers. Way over in the evening twilight, just 
as the " sun of righteousness" is about to set 
in a sea of blood, we see the withered fig-tree 
beneath the curse of the Son of God, as if His 
soul reaches forward and brings a part of the 
judgment before its time to warn His Church 
of the doom of unfruitfulness. This was a fig- 
tree — the right name, the right leaf, but not 
the right result from God's used blessings ; 
and hence the curse of Jesus went withering 
to its very roots. Christianity must be live, 
and real, and conquering, or Jesus will remove 
the candlestick. We are as deeply concerned 
with the very tap-root of God's nature as was 
John the Baptist, for our souls and our true- 


ness are as really at stake as was his. Dead 
formality or cold orthodoxy are as blighting 
and blasting now as Phariseeism was then. 
Let the hand of the mighty man of God be 
laid on the innermost purposes of our lives, 
and the warnings of his God-opened lips keep 
us faithful and true. God is a living God, a 
God with a purpose, and that purpose burning 
with all the intensity and wideness and om- 
nipotence of His nature. Narrow it not down, 
but seek the spirit of Christ until you are His, 
and feel Him in you the hope of glory, and 
life is " hid with God in Christ Jesus," there 
resting where " perfect love casteth out fear." 
Would you hear the purpose of God ? God 
sent His Son into the world to save the world. 
Would you know the only tap-root by which 
you may live? " As my Father sent me, so 
send I you." 



"O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee 
from the wrath to come ?" — Matt. 3 : 7. 

JOHN THE BAPTIST was a man of great, 
tender, warm heart, and this gave the de- 
spised, ostracised publicans and outcast harlots 
access to him, and gave him power to lead 
them up to the kingdom of God in forces like 
a besieging army ; which scene made Jesus ex- 
claim, " From the days of John the Baptist 
until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth vio- 
lence, and the violent take it by force." Yes, 
the people felt the heart of John beating warm 
and close to theirs. But there was one class 
among them, and they are among the men of 
every generation, who found the fierce burn- 
ings of a fiery indignation flashing forth from 
the lips of John like the sword of the cheru- 
bim. That class was the Pharisees and Sad- 
ducees. Those were the names they bore in 


John's day ; but they live on under a thousand 
names, but ever the same nature, and it is the 
spirit and not the name at which the Baptist 
hurls God's message of indignant condemnation. 
Now, what was that spirit, which from the days 
of Cain until this moment has called forth the 
fiercest anathemas of the living God, and 
stands most repugnant to the very essence of 
His nature, the spirit of His being? They are 
the idolaters of ecclesiastical ritualism, blind 
votaries of religious formalism, who stand 
ready to roll their idols on with fanatical speed, 
like a Juggernaut, over all that is tender, and 
weak, and live, and loving, and true in human 
hearts, pleading for mercy or craving to be 
loyal to their God, yet not seeking or not 
craving in the grooves and ruts of the prevail- 
ing system. Yes, they press on in cold-blooded, 
mechanical blindness, crush the ties and ten- 
drils that entwine souls to their God, and yet 
do all in the name of God : men who can see 
nothing but their own narrow idea of God ; 
men who cannot learn what means, " I will 
have mercy, and not sacrifice" ; men who can 
cry of the Lamb of God Himself, " We have 


a law, and by our law he ought to die. Cru- 
cify Him ! crucify Him !" Such men were 
met, as they drew near the second Elijah, with 
the startling, scathing greeting, " generation 
of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from 
the wrath to come ?" 

Of all men who need, and which the good of 
humanity demands, a bold, unsparing, and 
full-exposing denunciation, it is the wrongdoers 
in high position ; but, alas ! how seldom does 
he get it, unless there is some man sent from 
God, bold and self-sacrificing enough to chal- 
lenge the might of these Ahabs, like Elijah 
and John, rend the veil of thin hypocrisy, and 
show the world their inner vileness, * ' full of 
dead men's bones and all uncleanness," as 
Jesus said. 

Now, such men as the scribes and Pharisees 
are the enemies most to be dreaded in the 
Christian Church. John did not overstate the 
truth in calling these men " a generation of 
vipers." Up in that clear atmosphere of truth 
from which his soul looked down, the poison 
of their doctrine was realized to be more 
deadly than the serpent's fang : one but killed 


the body, the other destroyed men's souls. 
There are men who deal not honestly with God 
and themselves, and they may be men with 
widely-differing creeds. In St. John's day no 
two sects appeared farther apart than Pharisees 
and Sadducees : one was the man struggling on 
under an overwhelming load of religious formal- 
ity, the other denying the very existence of a 
hereafter at all. The Sadducee sprung as a re- 
action from the hollowness which he saw in the 
Pharisee, as infidelity will ever shoot a fungus 
from the trunk of a hollow-hearted religious for- 
mality. When men see professing Christians 
pretending there is a power where non-pro- 
fessors can see there is none, and demanding 
that burdens, the doctrines of men, be bound 
on human hearts as essentials to gain heaven : 
I say, when men see and feel this falsity they 
are apt to say, " All religion is a delusion; 
there is no soul or spirit ; there is no here- 
after. " And so we have our Pharisee and Sad- 
ducee, our hollow-hearted Christian of formal- 
ity and his companion the infidel springing 
from his side — a two-headed monster with the 
viper's fang. 


No wonder John's soul was stirred within 
him when he saw the Pharisee, who had so 
long professed to need nothing greater than his 
countless forms, and denouncing as lost and 
degraded beings all who lacked these forms, 
stand before him and trembling under the 
burning power of his living word, ask food, 
heart-food, from the man sent of God. And 
then to see by the side of the proud Pharisee 
the infidel Sadducee, who said he needed noth- 
ing more than provisions for this short journey 
across earth, for there was nothing more 
beyond. Yet, despite this belief, the few re- 
maining nerves of life within the soul trembled 
at the words of God, and responding to His 
power, did awake to a dim consciousness of a 
great hereafter. 

Let us give John the Baptist full credit for 
sincerity in the astonishment which speaks 
through his words, " who hath warned you to 
flee from the wrath to come?" Yes, who? 
Where had the self-confident formalist and the 
blind infidel heard, where had they seen a 
startling vision of coming wrath ? What had 
broken through that sleep so near akin to eter- 


nal death, and alarmed them ? John was 
astonished to find the power of his message 
sounding to hearts so buried in sin. He hardly 
expected to see these bones, so dry, awake to 
life at his prophesying. Let us note the 
shape his wonder took ; for, truly, God in 
mercy gave it a divine utterance. 

" Who hath warned you to flee from the 
wratJi to come f" John was a man that had no 
doubts of a hell, and that a hell to come — a 
dispensation when God's wrath would burst 
upon the spirit in horrors that made his great 
soul tremble for the sinner. And he saw al- 
ready the wrath of God in vivid flashes playing 
before these terrible sinners, and he spoke as 
a true herald of God and a true friend of 
man. He had felt a sad, hopeless conviction 
about the doom of these men, and spoke it out 
candidly, when he saw them, too, rushing tow- 
ard the city of refuge. He gave them a strong, 
honest pull when he told them, " Begin not to 
say within yourselves, We are the children of 
Abraham," but fly with all your power to the 
mercy of the living God. 

Have we been as honest, as live, as true, and 


as great in our dealings with sin and men ? 
Have we stood as close to God in our realiza- 
tions of truth ? And talked of the " wrath to 
come" with the courage of faithful sentinels on 
Zion's walls ? Jesus, our King, fully reiter- 
ated the teaching and warnings of John on 
these very sins, when He hurled the terrible 
thunders of His seven woes against them, with 
a scathing, withering power that makes the 
heart of faith feel as if it already stood amid 
the bursting realities of the day of wrath. 
John's skirts will be clear of the blood of these 
sinners, as they move on, one long black col- 
umn, down parallel to the march of the Church 
of God, but into the woes of sure death. 

But where will the timid, doubting preach- 
ers or witnesses stand, who dared let men go 
on day after day, year after year, by their very 
side, into the jaws of death, and never spoke 
out boldly ? Could a Dives come back to 
preach, his text would be but one, and his 
sermon forever the horrors of the " wrath to 



" And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do 
then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath 
two coats, let him impart to him that hath none ; and he 
that hath meat, let him do likewise." — Luke 3 : 10, n. 

RELIGION and life in all its departments 
are united. They must go together, as 
vitality must move through the organism of 
the human body. Yes, back of all these 
duties and cares, back of all these joys and 
sorrows, back of all these hopes and fears, 
stands God. This was that something which 
scribe, Sadducee, and Pharisee had in common 
with the harlot, publican, soldier, and com- 
mon people, that sent them in one body to 
this " man sent from God." Each wanted to 
know what message his King had sent unto 
him, what new light would flash along each 
respective path of life from the source of all 


life. We have heard that message of John to 
the ecclesiastic (of which we may say more 
hereafter), and it is noticeable that his deal- 
ings with them come nearer those of our Lord 
than with either of the other two classes, for 
they appear so hardened in selfishness and sin 
that there was little for them save the calling 
of their remaining consciousness to the terrors 
of the wrath to come. They were too far gone 
to be reached by an appeal to the glories and 
powers of the life that now is, and the eternal 
weight of glory of that which is just before us. 
Hence they appear more like the condemned 
than the children of hope, and the storm of 
wrath blackens above them as they advance 
along the line to the logical and inevitable con- 
clusion of their principles — viz., war against 
Jesus in the very essence of His being. 

In the treatment of the social and civil life 
there is a striking difference between John and 
Jesus — the difference between the evening's 
twilight of a dying dispensation and the burst- 
ing dawn of a new dispensation. That differ- 
ence may be briefly, comprehensively, and live- 
ly summed up in one word — " Father." John 


does not dwell upon the fatherhood of God ; 
but Jesus makes this the great central sun of 
His system, that which must hold all the bod- 
ies and forces thereof in their orbits by its gi- 
gantic might, and yet draw each and all on in 
grand, harmonious action by its intense life, 
and light every one's self and path with a glory 
peculiarly its own, and still a beam of splen- 
dor from this great " Father of Lights." It 
would seem that this very difference between 
the life and teachings of John and His life and 
teachings was playing in full force through 
the Saviour's mind when the disciples came and 
asked Him to " teach them to pray, as John 
taught his disciples. " The lips of Jesus opened, 
and from the fulness of His soul He breathed 
the eternal words, " Our Father" ; the glo- 
rious voice of the Christian morn breaking 
after the shadows of the Mosaic twilight. 

Yet there was something of the life, glow, 
and warmth of God's nearness in the words of 
John that called the hungering souls and bur- 
dened hearts of the multitude to him. He had 
the true light and glow of the true Sun, and 
its fires played through the evening clouds, 


lighting them with the glories nearest akin to 
its own, just as it departs ; so the evening 
twilight of the old dispensation was lighted 
from the true glory of one side of that Sun of 
Righteousness, soon to rise with healing on 
His wings, shining " brighter and brighter unto 
the perfect day." 

We now turn to watch this light play along 
the walks and through the lives of men, who felt 
the kindling glow of its powers firing their bo- 
soms, and lighting their hopes to higher, truer, 
livelier realizations of themselves and God. 
These awakened emotions burst forth from the 
lips of the crowds as they mingle in the vast 
multitude and press up to John with the ques- 
tion, "What shall we do then?" These are 
words from hearts no longer content to rest on 
the mere opus operatum of religion ; men 
whose souls had seen really, but it may be 
dimly, that religion was a personal, individual 
relationship of life to God, as well as the mo- 
tions of a vast organism. If the fatherhood 
of God had not as yet risen clearly, warmly, 
lovingly, and hopefully before their souls, the 
royal priesthood of man confronted them like 


the dim outlines of an obscure but ever- 
advancing figure, and men began to move and 
rejoice at that which they found within them- 
selves, at the same time trembling before the 
majesty of their own being. They had touched 
the vast sea of human life. Their opening 
eyes beheld the ceaseless, boundless sweep of 
its God-filled fulness, and they fain would 
catch the pulsations of its mighty tides. 
" What must we do then ?" 

Now, let us ever bear in mind that this is 
not the question of men seeking Christ, but 
of men seeking all that is noble and pure and 
true in man ; men reaching up for the full 
stature of their manhood under the reviving 
consciousness of the mighty truth that " in 
the image of God made He man," and that 
God had breathed from His own nostrils the 
breath of His life into him. Whatever, 
therefore, men may say or think of Jesus, 
Christianity, or any system of religion, this 
question before us is one that belongs to the 
lips and must rise from the heart of eyery true 
man, as man. And the answer of such a char- 
acter as John the Baptist, who was the greatest 


of woman born, in the glory and majesty of 
his manhood towered above prophets, priests, 
warriors, and kings, standing by the side of 
Jesus as earth's loftiest mountain-peak stands 
beside, reaches highest up into the falling sun- 
light. Grand above his fellows, glorious in his 
splendor, the answer of such a man must weigh 
mightily in the balance of human judgment. 
It was a question John was peculiarly fitted to 
answer, for it was one he had grappled and 
wrestled with through all that awful, lone in- 
tensity of his wilderness life — wrestled with 
until he, too, might truly be named " Israel," 
an Israel without a shrunken thigh. Can we 
for a moment stand close enough to hear the 
heart-beat of this great man, as this mighty 
question of living is laid before him for an an- 
swer ? How awfully grand must have been 
that moment of life to John ! As he looked 
into the vast consequences of living lighted up 
before him by the truth of God's own nature ; 
saw heaven with all the consequences of right, 
and hell with all the horrors of wrong, one 
beaming with the intensity of love and the 
other with the intensity of justice ; and in the 


Eternal Presence to feel the heart of humanity 
asking his own, "What shall we do then?" 
surely, it must have made him clasp the hand 
of his God more firmly with the grip of faith 
as his inner soul cries out, " Lord, who is suffi- 
cient for these things?" Whatever may have 
been the power or depth of inner emotions, no 
outer token tells. It may be that he had so 
truly, vastly, and victoriously grappled life and 
its broad consequences in his lone wrestlings 
that now he speaks as the victor and not the 
combatant. His words are those of a man look- 
ing the sublimity of every-day-life squarely in 
the face, and feeling its glory as a living pres- 
ence. " He that hath two coats, let him im- 
part to him that hath none ; and he that hath 
meat, let him do likewise." How true to 
God's own nature ! It is almost as if we stood 
in the garden of Eden four thousand years ago 
and saw the hand of the Almighty wrapping 
the sin-stripped body of humanity, girding it 
with strength, and nerving it with sympathy 
for life's hard struggle. 

This sent the multitudes home, not with a 
new formality, but with a deeper, livelier, near- 


er sense of the brotherhood of humanity. In 
these words we hear John, as it were, calling 
the hearts of men into one vast family, ready 
to hand them over to their great " Elder 
Brother," who would joyously lead them to 
the face of their long-lost Father. He gives 
them an essential principle, without which 
they cannot lay hold of the " fatherhood of 
God." Here, then, in the very root of hu- 
man life, down deep in man's essential nature, 
his very kinship to God, rises all the obliga- 
tions upon which Jesus lays His kingly hand, 
and to which He speaks with His kingly au- 
thority, when He says, " Love thy neighbor 
as thyself." Put the fatherhood of God 
behind these, and we have the power behind 
the organism which is to sweep the Church on 
through the vast, grand fields of her militant 
and missionary existence, and enthrone her 
power in that kingdom " eye hath not seen. 
nor ear heard, neither have entered into the 
heart of man," but which God has prepared 
for her as the " Queen-bride" of his own " king- 





" Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto 
him, Master, what shall we do ? And he said unto them, 
Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the 
soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what 
shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no 
man, neither accuse any falsely ; and be content with your 
wages." — Luke 3 : 12-14. 

f~^ OD is not only the God of the individual. 
^^ He is this in a sense that no other 
power ever dared to be. He never loses sight 
of the individual good for the benefit of the 
mass, never is content that ninety-nine should 
be in the fold so long as one is missing ; and 
so He never sets the seal of His approval on 
any system, ecclesiastical or political, which 
mars the glory of individual manhood or for- 
gets the man for His system. But, beyond all 
this, God is King of kings and Lord of lords. 
He is the Judge of the whole earth, and Je- 


hovah is a man of war, God of hosts, Com- 
mander-in-chief of all armies ; and whatever 
may be the trait of national life, it must, if 
true, find its source in our God. Further, as 
the Church of God does her perfect work, just 
in that proportion will her life pervade the 
state, not by the out-reaching of an arbitrary 
hand, and laying hold of the reins ; for all such 
attempts it is written, " He that taketh the 
sword shall perish by the sword" ; but she shall 
pervade the hearts and spirits of the legislative 
and executive departments, as the pure atmos- 
phere pervades their bodies, giving health, joy, 
beauty, and power to all in a boundless, silent, 
living greatness. 

There was something in the words and pres- 
ence of that Wilderness Preacher that reached 
and touched with living power all that was 
live in church or state. And that life within 
the state leaped glad response to his warm 
touch, felt a nearness, a kinship to him, and an 
obligation and sympathy in his message, that 
scribe or Pharisee could not awaken, nor feed 
when once awakened. So we see, in the eager, 
anxious crowd pressing hard to get a word 


from the lips of this great man in whom 
burned a living soul, the worldly, tricky tax- 
collector, and the rough, overbearing, turbulent 
soldier, followed, by and by, by the King Him- 
self. It is a vast mistake to imagine that the 
love of God and the pleadings of His spirit 
do not follow men and women into haunts of 
life long after the scorn of a Pharisaic society 
has set its seal upon them. Salvation stood 
much nearer the house of Zacharias, and en- 
tered it much sooner than it did the homes of 
many a self-righteous Jew. In my own brief 
but intense ministry among the lowest grades 
of sinners, I have been startled at the reality 
of God's presence to the consciences of these 
sinners. One may well find a record here, as a 
flash of light from a dark place. A brother 
had asked me to visit a brothel, where he heard 
his lost sister lay dying. I went, inquired if 
such a woman were there, and was answered, 
" Yes. " "Is she sick?" "Yes, but able to 
walk." I asked to see her. In a few mo- 
ments a young woman of nineteen, with the 
pallor of consumption on her face, entered. 
Everything in her appearance bore the mark of 


rigid and determined resistance to any attempt 
toward her soul's salvation. I arose and asked 
her if she were the sister of my friend. 
" Yes/' was the cold and indifferent reply. " I 
have come, at his request, to see you, and to 
tell you that your brother J — committed sui- 
cide this morning, and is now lying a corpse at 
his house. " I know it," she coldly said. My 
soul was appalled. I had never seen one, man 
or woman, so young, yet buried in such appar- 
ent cold-blooded stolidity. Fixing my eyes 
on her face, I saw the gathering shadows of 
death surely deepening there. A tender, sad 
pity pierced my heart and pervaded my inner- 
most being. Like a flash of lightning the 
stroke of pity rent the veil of stolid indiffer- 
ence from her heart, and it burst forth in a 
flood of bitter tears and deep, agonizing sobs. 
I sat in silence until she was able to speak, and 
then she told me her heart's sad story, and 
showed the unmistakable evidences that the 
Good Shepherd had never ceased to seek His 
lost sheep even in a den so vile and so low. She 
said, " I have been in this life of shame eigh- 
teen months, and now I am dying. I know it, 


and shall soon be gone ; but though I am here, 
do not think my soul is at rest. I cannot 
now, and never have been able, to go to that 
front window and look upon innocent people 
pass. A few Sunday evenings ago I was in 
my room and heard the people in the next 
house singing. It was one of my old Sunday- 
school hymns ; it went straight to my heart. 
I lay and wept bitterly in the lone dark night." 
Such were her words, and in a few short days 
she was gone. I have often gone back to the 
scene, for it has framed for me one of the most 
tender, faithful, and loving pictures of my 
Saviour's long suffering and seeking love. And 
whenever the enemy of men whispers to me 
that this or that man or woman is beyond re- 
demption, I look at this poor fallen girl, and 
hear the voice of Jesus from her inner life 
saying, " I am still pleading." It was this in 
the life of St. John, but infinitely more in 
the life of Jesus, that enabled Him to reach 
and woo the outcasts from society's cold, 
cruel, hard hand. This recognition of the 
depth of God's reach of mercy by John per- 
mitted Jesus to testify of his ministry : " The 


publicans and harlots believed him ;" yea, went 
into the kingdom of God before the hard- 
hearted, respectable men and women who 
spurned and scorned them. Men judge sin- 
ners and sins by their antagonism to the estab- 
lished fashions of society, but God by the 
deadening power on the soul. And when 
John came from God he brought a large 
share of God's sympathy and trueness in deal- 
ing with the sinner and his sin. Yes, he 
brought to his ministry a soul, on which was 
deeply graven, " God will have mercy and not 
sacrifice." Thus commissioned, he dared ap- 
proach the inner courts of men's lives with his 
message, and approached with the stride of 
power and word of authority, the power and 
authority of love. 

We turn now to look at the publicans as 
they gathered around John. Long had they 
been outcasts from the Temple's religion, and 
perhaps had learned to hate as bitterly as they 
were hated ; that very hatred gathering vitality 
by a consciousness of the fact that their treat- 
ment, in the name of God, was contrary to the 
nature of God. But one day a messenger 


passes and tells a strange story. There is a 
strong man down by the Jordan preaching, 
and he knows nothing of these refined distinc- 
tions of sins so rife in Jewish society. That is 
news to the publicans. There is something in 
this man they have been waiting for, and so 
they crowd around him. His bold, honest, 
open-hearted and heart-opening words assure 
them, and they are ready to accept nim as 
their leader. The very manhood of the man 
commands them, for there can be no degen- 
erate religion without begetting degenerate 
men, and no reformation of religion without 
reformation of manhood ; for as the heart is 
so will the man be. Thus, touched along the 
whole line of life by the life powers that 
played and flashed from this man of God, they 
come, asking, 

"What shall we do?" There is a direct- 
ness, a practical earnestness that promises at 
once living co-operation. It isn't so much 
what shall we believe, or whom follow, or with 
what formality shall our faith be clothed ; but 
the question was a live question, asking boldly 
for a live religion : What shall we do ? They 


grasped at once the great truth : a man's life is 
his creed ; and anticipated Jesus when He 
said, " By their fruits ye shall judge them." 

The answer of John is no less direct and 
honest than their question : " Exact no more 
than that which is appointed you." A brief, 
strange catechism, a very limited survey of 
life's duty, and that negative in its obligation. 
How do we account for this meagreness ? The 
answer is, John stood between two dispensa- 
tions, and was not laying the law down for either, 
but was ever conscious that his Lord came 
close after him, with His fan in His hand, and 
who would baptize " with the Holy Ghost and 
with fire." He was holding men's lives ready 
to respond when he should cry, " Behold the 
Lamb of God." And then, too, like a wise 
physician, he knew that the medicine which 
was to cure the sin-sick soul could not all be 
taken at a dose. This one sentence sent them 
home to a vast work of reformation — a work 
that would enlarge their longings for more of 
God's grace, and so prepare them for Christ. 
This brief sentence may have planted the 
seed which unfolds for a world the characters 


of a Martha and a Zacharias ; and if to-day 
its full force could be brought down upon 
modern business life, the homes of thousands 
and hearts of millions would be unburdened, 
while many lives would be exalted to the feet 
of Jesus. In John's day this would send a 
reformation through the entire system of civil 
oppression, and make him a benefactor of his 
people. The oppressed people without felt 
the trueness, courage, and greatness of the 
charge, while the more oppressed publicans 
felt the call, ringing like a clarion-peal, through 
their lives, and calling them up to true man- 

We now come to face John and the soldiers 
on the banks of Jordan, and we do so with 
deep emotions of sympathy. Only they who 
have been buried in a classification of men 
until all individuality and sympathy seems hid 
from the outer world can appreciate fully the 
wild beatings of a soldier's heart for that 
warmer and clearer life of sympathy which 
recognizes his individuality and never forgets 
he is a man with a heart in him. I shall never 
forget my soldier years, when men would send 


me to their kitchens to warm my hands, or to 
their barns to sleep, with an air of satisfaction 
on their faces which spoke that they had done 
all my position demanded. Once, I remember 
well, riding along with a fellow-soldier. We 
were both covered with the ice of the prevail- 
ing sleet. Passing a house, we saw a pointer 
dog curled up on a rich door-mat, when my 
companion remarked, " It would be good to be 
somebody's dog." All soldier life was not like 
this, of course ; now and then there were men 
and women who could see the man shine out 
through the dusty uniform, and hear the 
heart's soft beat above the sabre's clanging ; 
and such moments to the memory are like 
diamonds set in emeralds, bright, fresh, and 
joyously flashing gladness and gratitude, on 
down the path of life upon the pilgrim heart. 
I think such must have been the moments to 
the Roman soldiers as they stood before John 
the Baptist and felt his great man-heart beat- 
ing close beside their own, way down out of 
sight of the encasing mail that fenced them off 
from their fellow-men. And they, too, prompt 
to their life of action and obedience, ask, 


" And what shall we do?" Here, again, we 
catch the true idea, flashing out from life's 
natural walks and duties, with a clearness which 
religious theorizers could not attain. God 
does not make religion for the schools alone, but 
for man, and lays it broadside of human life. 
The answer of St. John was direct and intense- 
ly practical, as it was fearless and manly, and 
true to individual, community, and state. The 
brotherhood of man must be recognized. The 
soldier must give that which he missed most 
out of his own life — individual right. He must 
be upright as a man, and preserve his man- 
hood. Next, he was not " to accuse any 
falsely." There were to be no class wrongs. 
His citizenship was to be kept untarnished, 
and his truthfulness held sacred. Lastly, " be 
content with your wages." Here was loyalty 
and true independence ; whoever wants more 
than his worth is dishonest. All through we 
trace one master idea : it is John seeking the 
individual and trying to stand him upright in 
the image of his God. And his power flowed 
out into the brawny arms of the state. 
Through the word he spoke, ecclesiastical life 


had been pruned and exalted ; social life had 
been warmed and widened ; civil life had been 
purified and softened ; military life touched, 
made innocent, and ennobled ; all so softly 
and naturally, there was scarcely a jar or clash 
heard in the state, family circle, or by the 



" He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 
Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet 
Esaias." — John i : 23. 

A MAN'S greatness depends on his form- 
•*• *- ing a true estimate of himself and his 
duty to God and man. New life had burst 
forth from the wilderness preacher. It swept 
out to those so long slumbering in formality 
and self-security about the old dispensation. 
The priests and Levites of Jerusalem were 
startled, and soon had their representatives by 
the side of John the Baptist, examining his 
credentials. " I am not the Christ," says 
John ; "I am not Elias ; I am not that proph- 
et," were the answers to their questions. 
They could not understand that God should 
permit such bold proceedings to any one less 
than these, and to show any new claim was 
less. The danger of all ages is the underrating 


of present power and an adoration of the 
past, forgetting that God is a progressive God, 
ever advancing in new manifestations of power, 
and that these new manifestations require the 
livest watch of the whole powers of man to be 
recognized, grasped, and utilized to his good. 
God forbids the labelling of power. The 
demonstrations of His might are as numerous 
and varied as the stars of heaven. No two 
men yet have trod this earth with the same 
forces, playing for the same purpose, with 
equal proportions through their lives. Oh, if 
men would seek God in the present, and press 
toward Him in the future, what grand harmony 
would roll over this divided earth, and what 
a strong phalanx would be presented by 
the Christian front ! When John answered 
•' No," to their every question, the Jerusalem 
delegation then asked, " Who art thou ? what 
sayest thou of thyself?" This brings before 
the Christian world John's own sublime idea of 
his own life : " I am the voice of one crying 
in the wilderness, Make straight the way of 
the Lord, as saith the prophet Esaias." 

What an idea of life : how true, how grand, 


how live, and how strong ! This idea well be- 
fits the words of Jesus : " Among those born 
of woman, there is nota greater than John the 
Baptist." Here He discloses the source of 
that living power which was sweeping through 
the hearts of the nation with a mysterious 
force and thoroughness which astounded the 
crystallized ritual of the old dispensation. 
And though we have, in a previous lecture, 
spoken of the prophecy, in which formula John 
replies, yet that prophecy in his lips, as a re- 
ply to the questioners of life's power and aim, 
is clothed with a new, fascinating life to every 
one who would seek the true path of immor- 
tal glory — that exalted walk with God which 
makes eternal heroes. 

John's opinion of himself. He was not 
the Christ, not Elias, not that prophet. He 
was no relic of the past. He came, not resting 
on the formalities nor fame of those who were 
gone. No ghostly light from the sepulchre's 
mouth came streaming its ghastly halo around 
his head, nor did any wild presumption of un- 
real powers vaunt in his professions. He was 
a man, but a live man, in living contact with 


the living God ; leaning not on Abraham, 
Isaac, or Jacob, but on the God of Abraham, 
Isaac and Jacob. One touch from the light 
and glory of the living God is better than all 
the honors and splendors of the dead past. So 
John claimed a direct contact with and life 
from his God, held his own individuality, and 
God's willingness to honor and love that indi- 
viduality. This gave him a conscious joy in his 
service, an elastic, bounding, glad step along 
the path of duty, every step of which he felt 
was directed by the interest and appreciation 
of God. Next his humble opinion of himself : 
simply a voice, an echo in the world's great 
void, a note in the great strife and conflict. 
He was a mere empty nothing, save as he her- 
alded the will and message of God. Blessed 
realization, that exalts self to lean entirely on 
God ! But though John realized his own noth- 
ingness without God, yet he never for one mo- 
ment underrated the awful grandeur of the 
work God gave him to do. Though he was 
but " the voice of one crying in the wilderness," 
yet to him was intrusted the great work of 
" preparing the way of the Lord." Thus two 


forces were ever playing in the life of this won- 
drous man, making it beautiful and grand, 
humble and powerful. The sense of humility 
and the realization of responsibility poised 
each other like the wings of a strong eagle, 
on which his life soared up, up to the side of 
his God. What a safe attitude for the human 
soul is here disclosed ! What a true relation- 
ship to God and man ! What sources of great- 
ness — first, to keep self conquered, and second- 
ly, to face a world's opposition with dauntless 

There is one other remark of John the Bap- 
tist that is full of practical instruction — viz., 
his " as said the prophet Esaias." This shows 
his use of the past prophecies — viz., to point 
him to present duty. He was not so much a 
commentator on as a doer of the prophets. 
He felt the purposes of God pulsating through 
them, and sending his life on deep and strong 
with the purpose of Jehovah. The words of 
God echoing through the prophetic lips called 
him to duty. This is living theology ; and it 
prevails, the very school upon which Jesus 
afterward set his own immortal seal when He 


said, " If any man will do my will, he shall 
know the doctrine. " The mere theorizers by 
their midnight lamps can never realize and 
wield the living, conquering power of God, like 
the brave doers on life's vast, hard battle-fields. 
Such theories beget the starlight gloom of the 
middle ages. The dark ages were born-through 
the womb of the monastery, fit mother .for 
that long night of superstition, dread, and op- 
pression, all the legitimate outcome of reduc- 
ing God to a speculative system, a passive 
contemplation. These words, from the lips of 
John the Baptist, gave a full view of the main 
springs of that power which shook the old dis- 
pensation to its foundation, and brought the 
warm life-beats of the new closer and closer 
to the hearts of men. 

It is appalling to realize the vast work God 
intrusts to a single man, as He sends him forth 
to carve his way through life. There is no 
beaten track for any live soul to tread. It is 
a new walk with God along a new way. No 
other being will ever see and feel life as I do, 
as you do. The same waves of emotion never 
strike different lives at the same angle. So, 


after all, there must be great loneliness among 
the pilgrims, for experience prevents that 
fulness of sympathy by which alone they can 
look within and reach each other. Now God's 
wisdom, love, and glory are manifested in this, 
for we see that He thus forms us for His own 
companionship. The realization of this made 
John feel nearer to God in life's deep commun- 
ings and secret springs than to any prophet 
before him, and it sent warm throbs of joy 
through his life. Would God we had more of 
this realization now, that we could feel our- 
selves standing in the presence of Jehovah, 
and feeling this could appreciate our nothing- 
ness, yet take in the vastness and glory of the 
work the Lord calls us to do. Then would the 
soul leap with joy to " prepare His way," and 
press on with the strength of immortality to 
" make straight His paths." Then would we 
go back, and " with loyal hearts and true" 
enter the fulness of the brotherhood of saints, 
martyrs, and prophets gone before, sharing 
their spirit, work, and glory, instead of bend- 
ing in cold, unsympathetic speculations over 
their words and lives. 


But we may rest assured this vitality of 
being will excite opposition. There will al- 
ways be deputations from Jerusalem's dead 
formalities to question our commissions to ex- 
ercise the living powers of the living God 
within us, simply because their plans and for- 
malities are not patronized. But he who 
realizes that he is just before his Lord, making 
ready for His coming, will have strength to go 
on with his great commission — yea, more : will 
have a power with souls, to which the mere 
formalist is a stranger. We cannot narrow 
down life to set forms, for life plays— yea, is — 
countless manifestations, and rushes the soul 
on in contact with other life, until at last the 
great prayer of Jesus shall be fulfilled, and we 
all shall "be one" in the vast, fathomless, 
boundless, endless life, glory, joy, and love of 

prosperity's trial. 

" Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all 
the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him 
in Jordan, confessing their sins." — Matt. 3 : 5, 6. 

T T J E now behold the soul of the Baptist pass- 
' * ing through the subtle but terrible and 
deadly dangers of prosperity. His ministry was 
pre-eminently successful, not only in producing 
a widespread commotion among all classes, but 
in accomplishing that whereunto it was sent. 
John did not come to found a church, but to 
point people to the " Lamb of God." He 
came not as an organizer or builder, but a 
herald of the King ; so, when people heard his 
call, submitted to his ordinance of preparation, 
and followed the pointing of his ringer until 
their eyes rested on Jesus, they had reached 
the point to which John had come to bring 
them. And we see the people as one man fol- 
lowing him this far. 


What was it that gave him such power ? 
Where was the fascination, the mighty attrac- 
tion in the strong, brawny gospel of John ? 
Why should men love to come and have 
their hearts pierced through and through 
with the relentless sword of truth which 
he wielded, and their secret confusions shamed 
and doubts laid bare in the blaze of his 
truer life ? These are questions every preach- 
er of today would do well to study, and 
are questions every faithful preacher must make 
a part of his ministry, for they reach deep 
down into those grand relations between the 
heart of man and the nature and life of God. 

We may say one reason was that God 
has so constituted the human soul that it 
cannot rest long content on a lie. Satan 
may whisper ;< Peace, peace," but the 
voice of God within will soon drown the 
cry with the thunderings of " There is no 
peace for the wicked." Man cannot look 
eternity, yea, the possibilities of an eternity, in 
the face and rest, unless he can see God in 
that eternity as his friend. There is a dull 
aching, deep down in life's hidden depths, for 


something a lie cannot satisfy. There is a 
vast sea, with its ceaseless moanings and surg- 
ings, far below life's outward seemings. And 
when some man arises who cares less for the 
people's patronage than he does for their real 
good, less for their praise than he does for 
their salvation ; whose great, true heart feels 
with these deep yearnings of his fellow-men; 
and whose brave life dares challenge and con- 
demn the damning falsehoods of Satan in the 
presence and grace of God ; men will hear and 
tremble in the power of his truth and trueness, 
regardless of its pretence and gorgeousness of a 
formality, though the high priest be at its head ; 
will turn their backs on the splendors of a 
Herod's temple, desert the eloquence and 
learning of a Gamaliel, and press on into the 
wild inhospitalities of the wilderness, to hear 
great strong words of sincerity and truth 
speaking in brave frankness to the depths and 
wants of their lives. Polished oratory, artist- 
ic music, fascinating ceremonies, gorgeous, 
grand, or magnificent architecture can never ! 
never ! never ! satisfy and cure the deep crav- 
ings of a world of sin-cursed souls. 


But, thank God, there is a rest for this 
troubled world ; and when one of those 
troubled spirits feels the strong, firm embrace 
of sincerity and truth around it, there comes a 
calm, the birth-moment of honest trust, even 
though in the very might of its sincerity that 
truth has pierced, as with a two-edged sword, 
the joints and marrow of life. Thanks be to 
Jehovah, there is enough of the God-image 
yet left in many men to feel that it is better to 
die agonizing in honest sincerity than to live 
in the caresses of known falsehood. In our 
hearts we do applaud that which is true, 
whatever demonstration or false outer show 
self-pride may make to hide our own deepest 
and truest convictions. 

Thus did God bring men to feel Him 
in John the Baptist, and thus we see his 
great life towering toward heaven, amid all 
the convulsions and whirlings of human ap- 
plause. How grand and unmoved he stands 
amid it all, too true to waver for one moment 
from his God's high calling. He stands 
grander, loftier than the old mountains, whose 
wild, craggy steeps wake to the echoes of his 


God-glorifying voice, for he is founded and 
upheld by the same mighty hand as they, only 
his is an everlasting foundation, while theirs 
shall be shaken and pass away. 

Amid all that man can do or say for him, his 
meat is still locusts and wild honey, his raiment 
still camels' hair and a leathern girdle, his 
temple still the wilderness solitude, with the 
grand, deep-bending arch of heaven ; his cry, 
still unsoftened by patronage, rings stern and 
startling, "Repent, repent!" No wonder 
Jesus should warm in admiration, as he gazed 
back at this magnificent type of manhood, 
and exclaim, " What went ye out into the wil- 
derness to see ? A reed shaken by the wind ? 
A man clothed in soft raiment ? A prophet ? 
Yea, I say unto you, more than a prophet." 

In times like these in which we live, where 
popularity is. for the most part counted 
success, and success, alas ! is too often fol- 
lowed by the pompous pretences of the 
scribes and Pharisees, it becomes us to search 
for every hold of strength and source of 
power whereby to prevent this puffing 
up. St. Paul says, " Knowledge puffcth up, 


charity buildeth up." We need heart great- 
ness. Give us that, and we are safe. John the 
Baptist was great of heart as he was of head, as 
true as he was wise, as loving as he was strong. 
He was " a man sent from God," and he never 
lost sight of his messengership. He felt the 
trueness of God above him and the sorrows of 
men beside him, the grandeur, glory, and joy 
of life within him ; these great, living 
pressures on his heart kept him true, and 
made him press straight forward and upward, 
ever the victor in the strife. 

We want this strength now, this living be- 
yond the praise and pleasure of flesh and sense, 
the hearing of duty's call, and seeing truth's 
standard, despite all the clamor of a world's 
praise or confusion, of its applauding and hom- 
age-doing multitudes, and pressing bravely, 
truly, lovingly, and strongly on with the full 
joys of a glad heart. We need to feel we are 
sent into life by God as really as was John, and 
that John's Lord and Master is as surely 
pressing on after us as He was after John ; 
and that our duty is as really assigned us as 
was John's, and we are just as accountable as 


he was to our Lord. The world does not 
grow old to Christ, nor does His loving inter- 
est and sympathy grow cold through the lapse 
of ages. The kingdom is as dear to Him this 
day as it was on that when He bared His side 
to the spear and stretched His hands on the 
cross. Men's souls are as precious in His sight 
as when He said to the dying thief, "To 
day shalt thou be with me in Paradise." 
And to you and me He as truly speaks as He 
did to John the Baptist, saying, 4< Thus it be- 
cometh us to fulfil all righteousness;" for 
truly we, in all our life powers, are sharers in 
His work as really as was John in his great 
heart-loyal service. 



" Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, 
to be baptized of him. But John forbade him, saying, I have 
need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?" — 
Matt. 3 : 13, 14. 

r I ^ HOUGH Jesus was not yet revealed 
-*- as the Messiah to His great herald 
prophet," says Farrar in his " Life of Christ," 
" there was something in His look, something 
in the sinless beauty of His ways, something 
in the solemn majesty of His aspect, which at 
once awed and captivated the soul of John. 
To others he was the uncompromising prophet. 
Kings he could confront with rebuke, Pharisees, 
he could unmask with indignation ; but be- 
fore this presence all his lofty bearing falls. " 
Says Stier : " He has baptized many, has seen, 
and in some sense seen through men of all 
kinds ; but no one like this had as yet been 
before him. They have all bowed down be- 


fore him ; but before this man bows down, in 
the irresistibility of his own most profound con- 
trition, the sinful man in the greatest prophet." 
We ask ourselves instinctively, Why were 
not John and Jesus acquainted ? Why should 
not two lives, the grandest that ever rose on 
the darkness of a world, be blended together 
in all that sweet, soul-comforting communion 
of life's bitters and sweets ? But God sees not 
as man sees, and plans not as man plans. 
There is something deeper and sweeter far than 
mere social intercourse. There is a union of 
soul, a oneness of character, a deep undercur- 
rent of sympathy that springs from nearness to 
God and His perfection, which outlives and 
reaches beyond all mere intercourse of this 
world's associations. Jesus and John were 
kinsmen, but they were not associated as com- 
panions anywhere along life's hard road of 
lonely trials. Yet Jesus and John knew each 
other in a deeper, stronger sense than the men 
of this world ever can. Jesus, who saw Na- 
thanael under the fig-tree, had never for one 
moment lost sound of that " voice in the wil- 
derness," and through all those soul-wrestlings 


in the desert He watched John, while he was 
stamping and graving the living character of 
Jesus on his innermost soul, and making him 
life's reality. This is a far safer, grander, and 
truer position than to be watching the mo- 
tions of His flesh and blood. A Judas could 
do the latter, even kiss the lips of our Lord 
and be "the traitor" still. Jesus felt the 
force and necessity of this soul-harmony when 
He exclaimed, " It is expedient for you that I 
go away." And St. Paul rested on this deep 
bosom of peace when he said, " Henceforth 
know we no man after the flesh." 

Here, then, we may humbly bow and adore 
the richness of God's wisdom and love in keep- 
ing Jesus and John separated, that the world 
might see their perfect unity, and His ever- 
present power to keep. Here our God shows 
us the glorious richness of the " communion of 
saints," how oneness of soul gives oneness of 
strength and joy, and how all of His are one, 
whether they can touch hands or not. Heart- 
touches, and not hand-touches, make up com- 
munion in its vastness and joy. The ideal of 
God was what made the souls of Jesus and 


John one ; and it is the basis of all true, en- 
during love and communion. 

We come now to the meeting. That must 
have been a strange and wondrous scene to the 
multitude, when the Nazarene peasant stood 
before the wilderness prophet, to see the 
whole aspect of that dauntless man change in 
a moment from the stern condemner of sin and 
herald of vengeance into the deepest humility 
of adoring love ; but to no soul present was 
the scene so wondrous and awing as to that of 
the Baptist himself. He had been facing a 
hard,' cold-hearted, sin-stupefied people, whose 
lives were reeking with the blood of violence 
and black with the infamies of deceit and 
wrong ; for whom he finds no sermon appro- 
priate but one long, startling, soul-piercing 
" Repent !" when suddenly there stands be- 
fore him the Lamb of God, without spot or 
blemish, " the fairest among ten thousand, and 
altogether lovely." No wonder, in the light 
of that spotless purity, beauty, and glory, 
the sense of his own unworthiness overpower- 
ed him, and the true heart bursts forth in the 
words, " I have need to be baptized of thee." 


But now arises the question, How did John 
know Him ? Ah, who can say which of the 
myriad of ways at His own command Jesus 
used to touch the soul of His beloved at this 
moment ? — He, who called Nathanael by the 
allusion to the fig-tree, Peter by the miraculous 
draught of fishes, Mary by the sound of her 
name, the Emmaus-going disciples by the 
breaking of bread, doubting Thomas by the 
nail-points and spear-thrust. One look was 
enough to ravish such a soul as that of John 
the Baptist ; for when hearts are ready to love, 
and stand so close together on the vast plains 
of eternal truth and life, one touch will send 
the more than electric thrill through every 
fibre — yea, will strike the grand chords of that 
eternal harmony that blends in the raptures of 
heaven's resounding anthem of ".Moses and 
the Lamb." That will be indeed a day never 
to be forgotten : " the day of the revelation of 
the Sons of God," when all the veils and clouds 
that hide " our Father's" children from one 
another's love shall be rent asunder and for- 
ever rolled away, leaving every raptured child 
of God heart to heart. Thank God, such a day 


is coming ; and we who have here and there 
in our pilgrimage had the warm sympathy of 
a heaven-toned soul sweep through our lone 
heart-depths, waking raptures that we scarce 
had dared dream before, and swelling along our 
pathway's loneliness like songs in the night — 
yes, we may say and feel " It doth not yet ap- 
pear what we shall be ;" for who can tell the 
possible raptures of a spirit as it feels all these 
wakings of recognized and recognizing love ? 

But there is another thing that strikes us in 
this meeting. How different was John's bear- 
ing from that of the world ! How totally ab- 
sent was everything that this world honors and 
adores, from his ideal of the Bridegroom ! 
No long, sweeping robe of priest adorned 
Him. No star of worldly honor decorated His 
bosom. No purple mantle from kingly court 
marked him, but the greatness of His soul il- 
lumined the life into that holy winsomeness, 
and John's soul owned its King. Would that 
the Christian world, after eighteen hundred 
years of training, would go as directly and 
firmly clasp the true and beautiful wherever it 
beats and struggles for God and holiness. As 


in the days of John, so now, we need men, 
brave toward usurping sin, and humble before 
true greatness. We want men who call a 
brood of vipers a brood of vipers, sternly re- 
buke sin in the Herods of modern society, hold 
steady the curb of right on malice, covetous- 
ness, violence, and wrong, and yet ever stand 
ready to prostrate all their holiest and truest 
powers at the feet of Jesus. The more humble 
a man is in his bearing toward God, the truer 
will he be in his bearing toward men. True- 
ness to man and faithfulness to God, if they 
are deep and sincere, go hand in hand. 

There is another beautiful feature of this 
meeting of John and the Master. John, too, 
it seems, was expecting Jesus to make His ap- 
pearance, and it may be he oft strained his long- 
ing eyes over the multitudes as he uttered such 
words as, ' \ There standeth one among you, 
whom ye know not, the latchets of whose shoes 
I am not worthy to unloose," expecting to see 
the promised sign of the heavenly Dove de- 
scend upon the King of Glory. But, behold 
God's way ; 'twas not thus. It was not while 
John strained his eyes in watching, but as his 


life's powers bowed to his God-assigned task, 
that the Prince of Glory came to him. Jesus 
falls in His place, and comes alongside the 
toiler as a man. Now, if we would see Jesus 
we must look for Him straight on in the path 
of duty, whatever that duty may be. Many 
and grand have been the visions of His glory 
that have burst over the path of the faithful 
worker, while as yet not one single idle dreamer 
has seen His face in peace. Abraham saw Him 
by the sacrificial offering, and on Mount Mo- 
riah ; Jacob saw Him at the brook of wrestling ; 
Joseph saw Him in the prison's gloom ; Moses 
in the exile's path ; Samuel in the temple 
courts ; David in the days of his banishment, 
and by the threshing-floor. The Hebrew chil- 
dren saw Him in the fiery furnace ; Daniel amid 
the corruptions of Babylon's courts, and the 
lions' locked mouths. And so time would fail 
us to name the points in life's stern path of 
duty where God has stood before the faithful 
and true hearts, as they were doing their part 
" in that station of life whereunto He had 
called them." And when Jesus did come to 
John, it was to receive baptism at His hands, 


to show He not only loves to honor us, but 
the work He has given us to do, and says to 
us, with a love as tender and sweet as He did 
to John, " Suffer it to be so now, for thus it 
becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." O 
Lord, our precious Saviour, what deeds of love 
and glory are sanctified by obedience — deeds 
we are unworthy to do, but that Thou bidst 
us do them, and claim a oneness in the work, 
saying to us, too, as well as to John, " Thus it 
becometh us." Boundless, fathomless, inex- 
haustless mystery of love, by which Thou dost 
fold us in thy life, and wrap our work in thine ! 


John's witness to jesus. 

"John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was 
he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred 
before me ; for he was before me. And of his fulness have 
all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was 
given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 
No man hath seen God at any time ; the only begotten Son, 
which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." 
— John i : 15-18. 

A FTER all, that which decides the trueness 
*■** and greatness of any .man's ministry is 
its relationship to Jesus. The world (espe- 
cially in modern times) has had much to say 
about the lawful and true way of appointing 
and sending forth ministers of the Gospel ; but 
the question about which the individual soul 
of the minister should be more deeply con- 
cerned is, viz., What am I and my ministry to 
Jesus, and what is Jesus to me and my min- 
istry ? 

In this passage we see the true greatness of 


John the Baptist bursting forth like the glo- 
rious sunlight through the clouds of night. 
We see the spirit, like the storm-beaten ship of 
a thousand tempests, at last riding grandly 
into the haven of rest and holy calm. Beau- 
tifully and touchingly does John unfold for us 
his innermost feelings, when he says, " The 
friend of the Bridegroom which standeth and 
heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly, because of the 
Bridegroom's voice ; this my joy therefore is 
fulfilled." How tender, deep, and complete 
is the rest of his soul ! How perfectly con- 
tented in the presence of its King ! We turn 
now to watch the direction of John's ministry 
as he bends its great life-currents toward Jesus. 
Deep down and undergirding all of John's 
aims were two great purposes — first, to keep 
men from leaning too much on him ; second, 
to lead them to lean entirely on Jesus. With 
these two master forces playing in their cen- 
trifugal and centripetal po^ ers on his life, he 
sped through life's grand firmament perfectly 
poised, and resplendent with the glory of God. 
He disclaimed any intention of raising a sect 
or organizing a church. He called himself a 


" voice," not a foundation. He awakened the 
echoes of the wilderness, but built no temple's 
granite walls. His heart felt the great press- 
ure of a soul-hungering world clamoring about 
it, and he longed to lead it to the rest of 
his God. The strong man felt his heart 
" bowed 'neath its weight of woe," by others 
brought. How weak is the mightiest of 
woman born, to carry heart-burdens alone ! A 
Moses cries, " If thy presence go not with us, 
carry us not up hence." A Job longs to be 
" where the wicked cease from troubling, and 
the weary be at rest." A David wishes for 
the wings of a dove, that he may " flee away 
and be at rest." A Daniel fainted and was sick 
in the greatness of his heart-care. An Elijah 
wished to die beneath the juniper-tree. And - 
even our Lord Himself lifts the veil from 
Gethsemane's awful scene, and shows us His 
own heart, agonizing in that lone, blood-bathed 
anguish. No wonder, then, that as a soul 
reaches higher and higher, and gets a clearer 
vision of the sure realities of being, that the 
prayer should ever deepen, " Lead me to the 
rock that is higher than I ;" for this must be 


the yearning of every true heart on" Time's 
battle-sweeping plains. 

John did not try to explain Jesus to his follow- 
ers, but sent them to gather their own knowl- 
edge. He never claimed to know the height 
nor depth, length nor breadth of his Lord ; 
he only knew that in His light his own powers 
were as nothing, and his glory was completely 
merged. Honestly and frankly he says, '■ This 
is He of whom I spake, He that cometh after 
me is preferred before me." He knew that 
this was the Eternal Son, and that He was the 
Creator coming to His own. He felt the 
grand presence of the " Ancient of Days" 
standing before him, and felt that in His 
bosom, beat the great heart of the universe, 
filling every creature with its life. Yea more, 
there was a deeper well-spring in Him than 
from which flows and branches the life and 
vigor of animated nature in material form. 
That in Him was and from Him swept out 
the vast ocean of spiritual life, that lofty law 
of enraptured existence which he could no 
better name than call it " grace for grace." 
The warm sympathies of his God's heart were 
^ 7 


bringing scenes before him with a reality that 
prophets and kings had failed to grasp. And 
this is echoed in his words : "The law was 
given by Moses, but grace and truth came by 
Jesus Christ." These are very, very deep ut- 
terances — deep even to us, after eighteen hun- 
dred years of Christian light have blazed upon 
them — words whose full fathoms of glory may 
serve for the soundings of eternal years. But 
this we may realize as one of the joys before 
John's exalted soul then : the day of the 
Schoolmaster was over, and the day of the liv- 
ing, loving sympathy of a home nearer our 
Father's heart had come. " Grace and truth" 
were henceforth to be living embodiments, not 
abstract formalities. The newness of the 
spirit was to supersede the oldness of the 
letter. Religion was to burst the crystallized 
shell of formality, and come forth in all the 
winsomeness of a joyous life. 

No wonder that John's heart, being fired 
with these realizations, bounded with joy to 
point his followers to the " Lamb of God," 
who should feast their souls on the bread of life, 
and give them to drink of living waters ; no 


wonder that he should draw the contrast be- 
tween the two dispensations in the great mas- 
ter-stroke : " No man hath seen God at any 
time ; the only-begotten Son which is in the 
bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." 

These are truly feastings in heavenly places, 
raptures of joy far, far beyond time and sense, 
and far above all the delusions and curses of 
mere religious formality. It is a glorious 
chapter : we might, call it the title-page of that 
rich and matchless fellowship with the Father 
and His Son, the token of oneness vouchsafed 
to us by the Gospel. 

Thus do we see John leading a world to the 
" fountain for sin and uncleanness ;" hiding all 
near and dear to him in the "Cleft Rock." 
From this time on, rest flows into the bosom 
of John, as the deep, holy calm of the nether 
ocean, which rests despite the tempests that 
sweep above. His trust and confidence were 
like the promises of God — sure — for on them 
they were founded. 

But must you and I turn from this exalted 
vision of life, with no word of guidance, com- 
fort, and strength for ourselves ? Does that 


Jesus, whose presence breathed a holy calm 
and heavenly rest through John's life, speak 
nothing to us as He stands portrayed by the 
Baptist ? Is He not your Saviour and my 
Saviour too ? Have we not received of His 
fulness, and " grace for grace ?'- Have we no 
burdened hearts that crave to be unbowed ? 
No long, hard posts on life's weary battle-field 
from which we would fain seek rest ? We 
have ! We have ! And now we stand more 
fully in the presence of the King, and see His 
matchless beauty by more vivid flashes of soul- 
light than did John ; so we can testify to the 
knowledge of His nature and plan of His king- 
dom. " The least in the kingdom of heaven is 
greater than John the Baptist." The life of 
Jesus, as it were, but clasped hands with 
John's life ; but it lays broadside, yea, enfolds 
our own. If we would gain that deep rest 
John realized in His presence, we must heed 
His " Come unto me all ye that labor and 
are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." 
We must carry everything that is near and dear 
to us, and lay it in His arms. Never ozvn a joy 
outside of Jesus. And as the rich mercies of 


God crowd life's vast, overpowering responsi- 
bilities on us, then He stands by our sides, 
sweetly saying, " Cast all your care upon me, 
for I care for you." What words would these 
have been to John in prison, but he does not 
hear them. Remember, we are true as we open 
the way to Jesus, and lead souls to Him. The 
companionship of loved ones will sweeten and 
deepen as we merge it into the fellowship of 
God and His Son, swelling into joy unspeak- 
able and full of glory, while beneath all will 
sweep that deep current of resting assurance 
which rolled through St. Paul's heart as he 
exclaimed, " I know whom I have believed, 
and am persuaded that He is able to keep 
which I have committed unto Him against 
that day." 



" Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of 
the world." — John i : 29. 

r I ""HESE words of the Baptist at once mark 
■*- him as a great man. They show us 
toward what the yearnings of his heart tend 
— the destruction of sin. This places him at 
once above all the philosophers of his age, for 
they only reasoned of how to endure its evils. 
John longed to see the evil die. To deliver 
man from the oppressor within was his great 
aim. And when he thought of God and His 
greatness, this was the field fit and meet for 
the play of omnipotent powers. To him, no 
freedom was worthy of the name so long as it 
left men servants of sin. No joy was meet for 
the soul while it was the prey of sin's disease. 
No hope was worth the name while darkened 
with the obscurities of corruption. No gov- 
ernment was strong, with the weakness of sin's 


desolations preying on its vitals. A true pa- 
triot of his race, he arrayed his might against 
the chief enemy thereof, and reached out for 
that complete victory which God has given us 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Within the soul of the Baptist three master 
visions must be passing to give birth to the 
thoughts that echoed in these words. 

First, the Lamb of God. How different this 
idea of Jesus from that of the world and age, 
yea, even the church around him. They 
wanted a king, arrayed in all the paraphernalia 
of worldly pomp and power. But John's far- 
reaching soul saw more clearly, and realized 
that man needed a sacrifice, an atonement, as 
well as a king, and the Messiah's might rose 
before him in the similitude of a lamb, an offer- 
ing of the Father's love. He realized that it 
was not the might and crash of battle or the 
thunderingsof war that could deliver from sin, 
but the deeper, grander, quiet might of Om- 
nipotent love. The Lamb and not the Lion 
was to woo and win back the prodigal to the 
Father's bosom. And so, his lips were the 
first to utter, as he saw Jesus, the true nature 

152 "310 RE THAN A PROPHET." 

of his warfare. He saw the victim of the altar 
in the Son of God, and grasped something of 
the spirit of the life and conquest of his Lord. 
He saw and felt the great travailings of God's 
love as they exceeded the outward glories of 
this conquest. He was awed and humbled by 
this overwhelming love. While others were 
looking for exhibitions of power which would 
challenge worldly homage in their rough rude- 
ness and crushing effects, John saw the heart 
of God bowing in the depths of its tenderness 
to embrace and lift up the fallen. 

There was a second point in the character of 
Jesus which deeply impressed John : that was 
His coming to take away sin. He came not 
as earth's great ones, to bathe his career in vio- 
lence and blood, but he came as a lamb. He 
came not to seek the name and fame ' which 
earth called great, but to take away sin. John 
had felt the agonies of its torments during those 
long, stern conflicts in the wilderness, and had 
seen its soul-ravages traced in bitterness over 
the multitudes who came to hear his cry of 
" Repent." And when he saw Jesus come as 
the anointed one, " to heal the broken-hearted 


and preach deliverance to the captives," the 
sight stirred his inmost soul, and he cried, 
" Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away 
the sin of the world." There rose before him 
the armies of souls rejoicing forever in God's 
emancipating love, and the beautiful vision of 
the "glorious liberty of the sons of God" 
passed over his rejoicing spirit and bound it 
to Jesus. 

How near can our hearts press to the side of 
John's in this joy ! How heavily do the sins 
of a world press on us ! What anguish do we 
feel for the ravages Satan is committing, and 
the hopes and lives he is blasting in this wide 
world ! We want a little path cleared of its 
sharpest thorns, so that our own feet may pass 
over unpierced ; but do we agonize for the 
woes and wretchedness of the millions lost ? 
John's heart was big and strong to feel and 
yearn over man's doom and degradation, and, 
though but man, that great heart bowed be- 
neath the woe, and struggled with its fullest 
sympathy and might to raise men nearer to 
their God, and lift them from their fallen 

wretchedness. Here, then, is a life, grand, 


broad, deep, and great, with a holy unselfish- 
ness and the loftiest aspirations that can burn 
in human heart. 

There was another emotion throbbing- in 
John's bosom which raised him above his own 
nation: it speaks in the expression, " taketh 
away the sin of the world," not simply of the 
Israelite, but of the Gentile too. Here was a 
true conception of the nature of God, an emo- 
tion akin to that sympathy in the Father's 
bosom which is pealed forth to us in the 
words, " God so loved the world, that He gave 
His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believ- 
eth on Him should not perish, but have ever- 
lasting life." Here was a charity and sym- 
pathy capable of going out with the Spirit of 
Jesus to a world's salvation. No narrowness 
of sect or confines of nationality — His brother- 
hood with humanity was too perfect for that, 
and His kinship too purely of God. He looked 
out with a wider, sweeping vision, and felt 
the vastness of God's love embracing a world, 
and his soul leaped for joy once more, in obe- 
dience to that Spirit which thrilled him in his 
mother's womb. 


Alas ! how slowly do the souls of men rise 
to the stature and glory of John's. Did John 
speak the truth ? Has the life of Jesus ful- 
filled these words ? Do any patients stand to 
proclaim the trueness of this Great Physi- 
cian's power? Was the life of Jesus a pre- 
tended usurpation, or is it a culminating re- 
ality ? What is the testimony of eighteen cen- 
turies ? Ah ! all that is worth the name of truth 
proclaims the life of Jesus a success. The un- 
disputed testimony of infidel and believer alike 
is that it supplied a deeply-felt need, and gave 
a vast impulse to all that is good and noble 
and true in man, and that light, and right, and 
joy, and happiness, strength, and glory have 
ever followed in its footsteps. Aching hearts 
which knew no rest have found rest at the 
Cross. To darkened souls who had no hope — 
yea, even to " those who sat in the shadow of 
death," this heavenly light overspread them. 
The power of His life is as really beyond dis- 
pute as the power of the sun that shines, the 
lightning that scathes, or gravitation that 
draws. The balm of Gilead has established His 
reputation, The fountain for sin and unclean- 


ness has graven its living testimonials on earth, 
sea, and sky. That which makes the pulse of 
life beat stronger in each succeeding century 
is the life of Jesus, coursing its ocean tide of 
life, glory, and peace through the bosom of 
ages. He is " the light of the world" to the 
darkened soul, " the fountain for sin and un- 
cleanness" to the impure soul, the "living 
water" to the thirsty soul, the " shadow of the 
great rock" to the weary soul, the " bread of 
heaven" to the hungry soul, the " deliverer" 
to the soul bound, and Jesus to humanity. 
11 Behold the Lamb of God." Look, look, 
look ! There is no life that stands so clearly 
before the world as that of Jesus, no heart 
that beats its warm throbs so near the aching 
heart of man, no beauty that rises so winsome 
before the spirit's eye, no voice that calls so 
tenderly to the lone mourner, no arm that en- 
folds so strongly and lovingly to His bosom : 

" Yea, all I need, in thee to find, 
O Lamb of God, I come. 

Let the sceptic doubt ; for, truly, the Christian 
" knows in whom he has believed," and there- 
fore does " his soul rest in hope." 



" But the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and 
heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's 
voice : this my joy therefore is fulfilled." — John 3 : 29. 

T~\EEP down in the spirit of lion-hearted 
**^ John, 'neath all life's rugged sternness 
and bold fearlessness — 

" Like to white pearls underlying all the moanings of the 
Like the hidden gems enriching the deep mines of ob- 
scurity" — 

lived and glowed one of the tenderest, purest, 
sweetest volumes of love that ever adorned 
human bosom. It was his love for Jesus, than 
which a rarer gem of purest affection seldom 
flashes amid time's dazzling rays. John battled 
hard for his exalted devotion. He chose the 
easier field of the hermit life, and laid aside 
every weight that he might win a place close 
to the heart of his Lord. The very serenity of 


his devotion made him appear hard and stern 
to a careless world, but within he was all ten- 
derness and affection. He did not, like his 
Lord, walk amid the haunts of earthly pleasure. 
No Cana's wedding rejoiced at his presence, 
and we hear no sound of gladness from his lips 
at earthly feast. The social tide of life swept 
not near his joys, nor the smiles of mere hu- 
man love play about his pathway. With his 
hairy mantle and leathern girdle, his locusts 
and wild honey meat, he wandered amid the 
craggy wilds of. the Judean wilderness, seeking 
his beloved. 

There are vast and sweet fountains of 
thought bursting forth from John's life of holy- 
wooing — thoughts that light up our ways and 
should guide our love. First it was a love of 
character, and not mere physical beauty ; thus 
it rose at once into the realm of the imperish- 
able. John ever strove to keep before his 
soul his Lord standing, with every line of His 
character strictly denned. This is the only 
foundation of true love. No structure can 
stand longer than its foundation holds. If we 
want an immortal love we must entwine it 


about an immortal principle. And so Jesus 
himself had to say to His disciples, " It is ex- 
pedient for you that I go away." Yes, expe- 
dient that Peter should have the hand removed 
which lifted his life from a watery grave, that 
John should miss the pillow of His loving 
bosom, that Thomas should not have the nail- 
points and spear-thrusts upon which to gaze ; 
for, until these are taken away, there will be a 
clinging to flesh and blood, a localizing of His 
presence and limiting of His power, a contin- 
ual walking by sight and not by faith — all of 
which would not, could not give them the 
heart-rest He came to give. The Spirit of 
Truth could not come until the heart pressed 
down on truth for rest, instead of on flesh and 
blood ; nor would they realize His reign as the 
Comforter until they were wedded to character 
and not mere bodily presence. He enters and 
reigns through the power of truth woven into 
character, and not through bodily form. 

This may justly call up reflections as to a 
practice — alas, too common among professing 
Christians ! — that of marrying a sinner. How a 
child of God can take as the most sacred com- 


panion of life, sharing the inner joys and sor- 
rows, greater still the parentage of children 
and their training for eternity, to enfold near- 
est and dearest the heart one who must dwell 
with everlasting burnings, is to me a most 
awful and horrible mystery. How can a Chris- 
tian love regardless of a Christian character ? 
— a spirit like that of Jesus, resorting for its 
companionship to another spirit, which has 
nothing in common with the Lord. No mortal 
man can weigh the sorrow, soul-blight, and 
eternal woe bred by such a strange alliance. 

But we see in John the Baptist one of those 
rare souls capable of bringing the realities of 
faith so near that it rests satisfied with the 
fulness of the Lord's spiritual companionship. 
How tenderly and affectionately John ever 
speaks of Jesus ! We first hear him speak of 
Jesus in these words of humble adoration : 
" He that cometh after me is mightier than I, 
the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to 
unloose." Then we see all that profound rev- 
erence and respect necessary to the foundation 
of a grand and resting love — the soul led to 
and rested against " the rock higher than I," 


from which point it can sweep on in a bound- 
less course of adoration with glad confidence. 
Without such faith as rests the soul, perfect 
love is impossible, for love is largely made up 
of trust. John with all his might pressed up 
to lay his weariness and weakness on Jesus. 
He looked out to see the coming of His 
mighty arm, beneath the shadow of whose 
wings he could sweetly rest, with the full con- 
sciousness of perfect victory and safety. 

Again, we have seen this lowly adoration, 
this boundless respect, as Jesus stood by John's 
side in Jordan. " I have need to be baptized 
of thee; and comest thou to me?" but the 
next moment we see love exalted into modest 
yet perfect obedience by a single sentence 
from the lips of Jesus : " Suffer it to be so 
now;" then he suffered him. A perfect sub- 
mission of will, a glad obedience and bending 
into the purpose of his Lord : grand humility, 
with exalted obedience beneath. In a heart so 
humbly rich, what raptures must have burned ! 
There must have been an intense, continued 
joy welling up in the bosom of John — a joy so 
refined that we need the touch of the most 


delicate spiritual perception to appreciate — 
but when realized it lifts us near the realms 
where angel spirits feast on His love. This joy- 
is made up of the rest John felt in the majestic 
power of his Lord blended with the gratitude 
for the honor Jesus conferred upon him in per- 
mitting him thus not only to serve but to be 
counted a partner in fulfilling all righteousness, 
a co-worker with his beloved. Here we see 
John's earthly ministry touch its zenith. The 
King has come ; the heavenly dove descending 
amid those glorious words, " This is my be- 
loved son, in whom I am well pleased," com- 
pletes the rapturous vision, and leaves John to 
feast on the royal food thereof, during the 
forty days which Jesus fasted in the wilder- 
ness. These were days of soul-mellowings to 
John, meet to produce those grander words 
than ever came from prophet, priest, or king 
before him, with which we hear him breaking 
the silence, and calling a lost world as he ex- 
claims, " Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh 
away the sin of the world." What melody of 
love rolls its profound measures through this 
sentence ! It is as if John unrolled his sins 


and showed us the meeting of Jesus along 
the whole line'of his innermost being. What 
unity of spirit is here disclosed ! What blendings 
of purposes, and aims, and joys of life ! Again 
the curtain falls, and all that Satan can send 
swooping down to destroy and mar this beauti- 
ful love comes beating on the soul of John. 
The pursuing tongue of envy tries to shoot its 
rancorous arrows within his heart. They come 
and tell John of Jesus' success. When lo ! the 
heart bursts forth in that most exquisite and rap- 
turous adoration, " The friend of the bride- 
groom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoic- 
eth greatly, because of the bridegroom's voice : 
this my joy therefore is fulfilled." Can 
there be anything more exaltingly tender, 
heroic, and chivalrous, in -the truest and loftiest 
capabilities of these words ? The picture is so 
fine that the touch of human language from 
earthly association seems to defile it. The 
emotion is too exalted and pure to travel 
through the crude channels of earthly thought 

There is another scene, which to me speaks 
most eloquently of this love. When John sent 


from prison this message to Jesus, ** Art 
thou He that should come, or look we for 
another?" what answer did Jesus send back ? 
Just simply a page from His own life. Such 
an appeal could be made only when the chords 
of love were deep-toned within the soul. Well 
did Jesus know that John's innermost spirit 
would respond to His own ; so He just 
touched John's life with His own. It was 
enough. Amid the rich communings of this 
life-touch the grand soul of John could mount 
from Herod's bloody prison to the home of his 
God. Jesus gave the crowd this grand picture 
of John ; but to John He gave His love- 
token, rich anointing against the day of his 
offering up, a shroud more fragrant than ever 
wrapped king's body, meet substitute for Eli- 
jah's chariot. 



" But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for He- 
rodias, his brother Philip's wife, and for all the evils 
which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he 
shut up John in prison." — Luke 3 : 19, 20. 

* I ^HE " man sent from God" speeds on 
•*; his errand with giant strides, crashing 
through the hollow-hearted religious formali- 
ties, checking in their bold bad career the mil- 
itary and civil emissaries of a corrupt state, 
laying the axe at the root of a long-idolized, 
patriarchal aristocracy, comforting the multi- 
tudes of down-trodden, priest-ridden poor, as 
they wandered like sheep without a shepherd. 
On, until his hands had administered the sign 
that was to fulfil all righteousness upon the 
Son of God Himself, and his eyes had seen 
the heavenly dove descend, and his ears had 
heard the voice of Jehovah own the Eternal 
Son. But still on he strides, in the might of 


his God and strength of His purpose, bearing 
a message from that God to the little, abject, 
degraded Herod. They meet — when we know 
not, how we cannot tell — but meet as the 
ambassador of God should meet the guilty, 
sinning man, with a bold, true, faithful mes- 
sage on his lips. John reproved Herod for his 
adultery, " and all the evils he had done." 

How different is this from what the policy 
of this world dictates, or even the Church in an 
age when worldly policy predominates. Such 
a church would have cautioned John against 
what it would unhesitatingly have called " bold 
rashness, savoring but little of the meek, lov- 
ing spirit of God." Alas, what does the world 
or a worldly church know of God's spirit ! They 
are ever crying, " Prophesy unto us smooth 
things, speak to us soft things." They forget 
that " Jehovah is a man of war, our God is a 
consuming fire. " They meditate not, " If the 
righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the un- 
godly and sinner appear? " No ; such an idea 
of God they would not, but their corrupt 
minds would idolize a God who for love's sake 
would clothe Himself with corrupt doings, and 

11 MORE Til 'AN A PROPHET." 167 

fill " our Father's house" with sinners vile. 
Ah ! love is not always silence, nor forbear- 
ance, but love is devotion to truth, loyalty to 
right. So every Bible hero is portrayed as 
representing, defending, or dying for that truth 
and right. God's Holy Spirit does not record 
one approval of compromise with sin, or intim- 
idation before the sinner. 

But the worldly church would say this is very 
bad policy. John the Baptist, if he had lived 
in this day, might have had a deputation from 
the vestry or influential members of his con- 
gregation, with advice something like this : 
*' Now, do be prudent in your dealings with 
Herod. We know his morals are not pure, but 
harsh dealings will not cure him. Proceed 
softly, gain his confidence, insinuate yourself 
into his friendship, build up an influence ; then, 
by and by, you can proceed with more hope of 
success to correct the evil ; you can speak with 
more weight to the King. And then, too, con- 
sider the consequences of rashness : you will 
get yourself thrown into prison, and it may be 
beheaded, and leave your vast work here all a 
disorganized and hopeless wreck. No, no ; if 


you will persist in being bold and severe, do 
wait until things are in a little better shape." 
Such, I conceive, would be, to-day, considered 
good advice from a vast number of congrega- 
tions of almost all denominations, were a sim- 
ilar issue forced on them. Let us consider, for 
a moment, such advice. 

First, be prudent in your dealings with the 
Herods. Alas, how many brother ministers 
have heard intimations like this ! " When a sin 
has become popular," remarks a shrewd ob- 
server, " it ceases to be preached against." 
These words, of course, are not entirely true, 
but they contain enough truth to sadden us. 
Be prudent with sin. Yes, as prudent as Na- 
than was with David, as Daniel was with the 
decree of Darius, as Elijah was with Ahab, as 
John the Baptist was with Herod. What is 
prudence with sinners ? Certainly not fawn- 
ing and Mattering their sins. W r hy, sirs, the 
preacher bears a message from the " living 
God," and he must cany himself as becomes 
his message. John had received his instruc- 
tions from Jehovah, as has every true Gospel 
minister since ; and what have we to do with 


parleying ? Yea, rather let us know we are 
in danger of being "damned if we doubt." 
Yes, we must be as prudent as the shepherd 
who finds a wolf in the fold. We are to be 
" as wise as serpents, as harmless as doves," 
as fearless as lions. " Fear not those who kill 
the body," says our Captain ; and this is as 
really a part of the Gospel as " Do this in re- 
membrance of me" ; for " the fearful shalt have 
their part in the lake which burneth with fire 
and brimstone," as sure as murderers, whore- 
mongers, and idolaters (Rev. 21 : 8). No; 
the soldier of the cross must love Jesus more 
than life, and hate sin more than he fears any 
consequences of assaulting it. If he has not 
faith enough to trust the dealings of his God 
through every conflict, then woe be unto him. 
Jesus lovingly showed us this stronghold when 
He said to Pilate, " Thou couldest have no 
power at all against me, except it were given 
thee from above." And so, if we are true we 
must speak the truth ; consequences belong to 
God, faithfulness to us. 

" Harsh dealings will not cure." No, but 
to be true is not to be harsh. It is Ahab, not 


Elijah ; Herod, not John, that troubled Israel. 
Oh, the fallacy of this lie ! Sin must roam 
rampant through every walk of human life, de- 
filing the social circle, humiliating and blast- 
ing the family, sending sons to defaulters', 
drunkards', adulterers', murderers' graves, 
daughters to eternal infamy, fathers and 
mothers to everlasting disgrace, prosperity to 
disaster and beggarly want, governments to 
oppression and degradation, the Church to cor- 
ruption and hypocrisy ; and yet the ambassa- 
dor of God must deal softly and play gently 
with this hideous serpent's gathering folds ! 
Oh, by all the sacredness of your heavenly 
commission, thou man of God, I warn you to 
" quit you like men," and be " faithful unto 
death." God has a character to defend, and 
His honor is in your keeping. " Whosoever is 
ashamed of me and my words in this adulter- 
ous generation, of him shall the Son of Man be 
ashamed when He cometh in the glory of His 
Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8 : 38). 
" Gain influence with the sinner." Yes, one 
has said, " Lot tried this at Sodom, and what 
did it profit him ? Why, he lost his own charac- 


ter, lost his fortune, lost his influence over his 
own children, for he couldn't get them out of 
Sodom." No, no ; let it suffice, once for all, 
that Jesus did not obtain His influence in this 
way, and "he that soweth to the flesh shall 
of the flesh reap corruption/' 'That which 
is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born 
of the spirit is spirit." The Christian should 
disdain any influence that detracts from or 
shades his sonship, or for an instant brings 
into suspicion his loyalty to his Father. We 
live to show ourselves sons of God at all cost. 
Again, as to its consequences. Ah ! there are 
no failures save those when we fail to be true. 
Organization, plan, 'etc., are not for one in- 
stant to be arrayed against right and truth. 
We are too apt to judge a man's work by the 
shape it assumes. There is a moral force far 
more successful than any shape. Jesus said, 
" The words I speak unto you, they are spirit, 
and they are life." Yes, the organism and re- 
sults for which the true servant of God battles 
are of God, and he knows, if he is true to 
that God, the great living temple will be ad- 
vanced by God's own plan. John could well 


afford, as can every minister of Jesus, to die 
for truth and leave the Holy Spirit to mould 
the seeming mass of fragments into the beauti- 
ful whole. Look at the life of John the 
Baptist through the vista of eighteen hun- 
dred years resplendent with Christian light, 
and say if it is a fragment, if his work was a 
failure, if the reproof of Herod was a Chris- 
tian calamity. Nay, nay ; a more solid, grand, 
complete work it would be difficult to find. 
We could not take an iota from the course of 
this great man without dimming or marring his 
glory. Who now would have had him less 
bold and outspoken before Herod ? Who 
would have the heroism of such devotion dim- 
med by one moment of doubt or hesitation on 
John's part ? If I am God's, my work is God's, 
and He knows how to take care of it. Yea, 
' ' I am persuaded He is able to keep that which I 
have committed unto Him against that day." 
The Holy Spirit can use our work as we can- 
not. Away, then, with all doubts of conse- 
quences. Trust in the Lord. Follow the Lord, 
and press forward. 

Who does not glory in the courage of John 


the Baptist ? — that true, real courage, when self 
is bravely, gladly offered up for right. No 
stoical indifference to fear, but heroic love for 
God, marching on to death with the glad 
tramp of victory ; not rejoicing in a will 
stronger than Herod's, but in a purpose hid in 
God. Yes, courage is the word — from " cceur," 
the heart. John had the greatness of heart to 
speak and die for God and right — yea, also for 
humanity. Who can tell what the world owes 
to-day to this deed of John the Baptist ? It 
swings like the cherubim's swords over the 
head of profligacy and vice, wherever en- 
throned, and more than one bold bad man has 
felt as if John the Baptist had risen from the 
dead, and were thundering his sins back on 
his guilty soul. Glorious John ! I thank you 
with my whole heart for this great trueness to 
God and man. And O, thou God of John, give 
thy servants grace to love and fear this world 
as little as did John, and serve thee as grandly, 
gladly, and bravely. 


adversity's trial. 

" Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into 
prison, he departed into Galilee." — Matt. 4 : 12. 

' ]\ /T Y ways are not your ways, saith the 
•*-*-*■ Lord." God has fire for the gold, 
and gold is for the fire. What we say and do 
in prosperity may attest our knowledge, but 
what we suffer and feel in adversity tests our 
sincerity. The great calls of God are calls to 
suffer. Jesus says of St. Paul, "I will show 
him how great things he must suffer for my 
name's sake." God is too heroic in nature, 
and heaven's spirit too grand and glorious, to 
rejoice only in the weak sentimentalism that 
the world is ever trying to pass off as genuine 
Christianity. From the days of Abel to this 
moment there is no honor roll of heroes 
known to man that can for one instant stand 
beside those mighty ones recorded in God's 


own word ; no deeds so unselfish, lofty, pure, 
and fearless as the deeds of the armies of the 
living God ; and, above all, no exhibition of 
any such intense and glorious love impelling 
to such self-sacrifice and devotion. No ; God 
and heaven rejoice in the heroism of the saints. 
It is a part of their glorious nature, the true 
fulfilment for that noble craving in the human 
heart for glory, which Satan, by deceiving and 
leading on, has swept earth time and again 
with fire and sword, and bathed desolated 
homes in their children's blood. Thank God, 
there is a work worthy of its every power, and 
a rest meet for its loftiest ambition. It is a 
part in that work which made Jesus " endure 
the cross, despise the shame," and a rest with 
Him as He sits at the right hand of the 
Majesty on high. I know of nothing more 
stirring and soul-firing than to enter heart and 
soul into the study of the heroism of the chil- 
dren of the King, and the joy of heaven and 
God in that heroism. Jesus said, " Should 
not Christ have suffered and entered into His 
glory?" Moses and Elias formed no theme so 
intensely consuming, that night on the Mount 


of Transfiguration, as the theme of " His de- 
cease." The Holy Spirit writes, " If we suffer 
with Him, we shall also reign with Him." And 
the King in His glory returns from heaven to 
write seven times over the blessings waiting 
"him that overcometh" ; further on we hear 
heaven declaring, " They loved not their lives 
unto the death." No, no; an effeminate, 
ease-loving religion is a false, soul-deluding 
religion, for our God glories in the valor of 
His saints. " We are made perfect through 
sufferings," as was the Captain of our salva- 
tion ; and woe unto those who are at ease in 
Zion, and whose souls do not go forth to en- 
dure hardness with the King, for the conduct 
of all such is closely allied to denying Him. 
" If any man will come after me, let him deny 
himself, and take up his cross and follow me." 
" Be ye faithful unto death, and I will give you 
a crown of life." 

John the Baptist had talked well for Jesus, 
and now God is going to prove him, to set the 
inviolable seal of sincerity in martyr blood 
upon his ministry ; and so Herod throws him 
into prison for being true to humanity and 


God. Now comes the trial ; when the true 
soul, alive with a burning consciousness of 
right, is chained under the grinding heel of 
oppression and wrong. Now, then, John, prove 
the fibres of your faith. See if your great 
preaching is able to bear you safely over this 
gulf of anguish — this long, dark night of trial, 
to end in blood. With John it was doubtless, 
as with us all — the bitterest trial is that which 
comes nearest the heart. It is not the rough, 
cruel handlings of our enemies that pierce us 
deepest, but the seeming failure of friends ; 
not the wounds the body shows, but those the 
heart feels. This was to John something like 
the trial of offering up Isaac was to Abraham — 
not only a trial of his faith, but, as it were, of 
the faithfulness of his God. Jesus was near 
John, and was unfolding each day His divine 
power. The country rang with the fame of His 
wisdom and might. John had heard God's 
voice own Him as His Son. Now, will Jesus 
let him suffer on unrescued ? or, if He think 
best to let him suffer, will He not send him 
many tokens of sympathy and words of com- 
Torting love ? John hears that Jesus is coming 


to Galilee ; report after report reaches him ; 
and now they tell him the Master is preach- 
ing and doing wonders in the surrounding 
country. Yet no demand has been made to 
Herod for his release ; nay, no word of sym- 
pathy, no token of love has come. The 
Master works on, as calmly and steadily as 
if John were down in Judea baptizing and 
preaching. Can it be He loves him ? Can 
this be the exhibition of the tender love 
of the Son of God ? Herod's cruelty had 
outraged humanity, and indignant innocence, 
dauntless and strong, rises up to resent ; but 
Jesus' neglect — ah ! where shall armor be 
found to shield from this ? Truly, " thy rebuke 
hath broken my heart." He can gather no 
comfort by detracting from the character of 
Jesus. He cannot say, " I am deceived : he is 
a careless, heartless man." No, no; for these 
thoughts would send down with one sad crash 
all that his soul had known, and trusted, and 
loved. To doubt the Lord would be to ship- 
wreck himself ; yet how can he cling to that 
Lord against actions so crushing ? Who has 
not been through some such trial ? Who has 


not felt the cold, dark, bitter waters ebb to 
the very soul, as the dealings of Jesus with us 
seemed to annihilate our very ideas of His 
character ? Thank God, He has left us those 
blessed words to fall back on: " What I do thou 
knowest not now ; thou shalt know hereafter. 
But John had not these blessed words — oh, 
what would he have given for them ! But no ! 
Alone with that image of God which a life of 
faithfulness had graven on his heart, these 
strong convictions, yea, living realizations of 
the trueness, justness, and love of his King, 
stood with him. How differently from poor 
Samson he entered the prison ! The locks of 
his strength lay massive on him, the virgin 
trust of his heart was unviolated, and our 
Lord Himself asks the question, " What went 
ye out into the wilderness, for to see ? A reed 
shaken by the wind ?" and then, by all the true- 
ness of God's own word, pronounces the glo- 
rious " Nay." Whatever John maybe, I hold 
my Saviour's own testimony, that he was 
" unshaken by the wind." This man, if ever 
one had, had founded his house on a rock. 
What now appears to us one of the most glori- 


ous results of John's conduct, as we look at it 
through the dawning light of eighteen hun- 
dred — yes, as John himself must have seen it, 
through all these years ? I should say, the joy 
that he gave Jesus by bearing patiently. Our 
Lord Himself has said, It is more blessed to 
give than receive' ' ; and surely John was rich 
in giving wealth. If there was one warm, 
loving, sympathetic spot to the great lone soul 
of Jesus as He trod the winepress for us, that 
spot must have been the heart of John the 
Baptist. If there was a single life whose pur- 
poses were strong enough to beat in unison 
with the bosom of the Son of God, the life of 
John the Baptist must have been that life. 
Oh, we should ever remember Jesus is not in a 
hurry. The eternal years are His, and His 
purposes fail not. He will in due time mani- 
fest His approving love, and pour His rich 
gratitude into our spirits for all of our love for 
Him. " Though He tarry, wait for Him," and 
make your heart say, " Though he slay me, yet 
will I trust Him," and the end shall be glorious. 
Thus God often tries our faith to perfect it. 
Strong men need trials of weakness ; busy 


lives, trials of rest. To such the Lord speaks 
when he says, " Be still, and know that I am 
God." We need that collecting of soul, in which, 
as it were, we gather up our little powers, and 
stand by the great ocean of God's omnipotence 
to watch it pulsating with His eternal purposes. 
Then, and not till then, do we rest on the 
strength of the Everlasting Arm. It is this 
glorious vision of God that inspired those 
grand anthems which burst from the lips of 
the patriarchs as they went down into " the 
valley of the shadow of death. " To be laid 
aside in our prime, when there appears so 
much for us to do for our God and humanity, 
comes with a cold, bitter chill to the soul, 
unless, like John, we can say, " I must de- 
crease, He must increase," and so we die as 
twilight dies into morning. But only let us 
remember we are not laid aside, but called 
aside by the Lord. Blessed be our God. In 
His great love He often comes to us in our 
multitudes of care and toil, and says, " Come 
aside and rest" ; and so He calls us away as He 
did Abraham, Elijah, and John, to lean on 
His bosom and awake in glory. 



"And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or 
do we look for another ? Jesus answered and said unto 
them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do 
hear and see." — Matt, ii : 2-4. 

' A S the hart panteth after the water 
*^> brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 
O God." To me, this was the utterance of 
John the Baptist's innermost soul while he lay 
bound in the gloomy prison of Herod. In my 
earlier years I thought this message of John 
to Jesus disclosed something of doubting sad- 
ness, the fruit so natural to such a hard trial as 
that to which John was being subjected — the 
trial of inaction, injustice, oppression, and seem- 
ing neglect. But now I cannot hold the idea. 
The whole tone of the Baptist's life, the shape 
of his message, and especially the shape of our 
Lord's answer, all lead me to conclude that it 


was simply the gratifying of his deep, sympa- 
thetic love for Jesus and the work. John's 
soul was hungry for a word from his Beloved, 
and he pined for love's communings. He was 
cut off from much that was sympathetic, and 
forced to live on heart resources. He might 
truly say, " He hath hedged me about that I 
cannot get out," and he wanted one soul-touch 
from the Spirit of the King ; so he called two of 
his disciples and sent them to Jesus, saying, 
" Art thou he that should come, or do we look 
for another ?" I do not pretend to fathom these 
words, nor all that beat and burned in the 
great soul behind them ; but some rays of light 
flash out from them, clear and grand, in which 
my soul rejoices. 

What a spirit of unselfishness ! Not one 
word as to his lone, hard sufferings. No, no ! 
This was not the side of his nature that needed 
sympathy. Long, long ago, in those stern wil- 
derness battles, had he made conquest of this 
side of life, and came forth with his hairy man- 
tle and wild food, meet robe and food of the 
great self-conquest. It is just here many peo- 
ple lose their hold on those they would help, 


and wound where they would heal, deepen 
where they would cure loneliness. When our 
friends so misunderstand us as to conceive 
that we are depressed and cast down, owing to 
the burdens and clouds or some lower elements 
of our natures, their very mistakes add bitter- 
ness to our cup of anguish, as when the disciples 
so often interpreted the words of Jesus, as if 
He were dragging through the lower plains of 
life instead of His great soul-struggles. They 
said, " It is because we have brought no 
bread" ; when he said, " Beware of the leaven 
of the Pharisees." And when, rejoicing in the 
glory of His work at the well of Samaria, He 
exclaimed, " I have meat to eat ye know 
not of," they, thinking Him engrossed with 
thoughts of the body, asked, " Hath any man 
brought Him aught to eat ?" Thus, time and 
again, was His heart pierced by the low con- 
ceptions of His nearest and best friends. 
Those who would comfort us must rise to our 
outlook in trouble, or at least not form a lower- 
ing estimate of our characters, lest, like Job's 
comforters, they weigh down our overbur- 
dened hearts with their creed miscompre- 


hensions, and compel us to cry out with Job, 
" Miserable comforters are ye all." They who 
would make life's path fragrant with the rich- 
ness of grateful hearts must learn to know and 
respect this law. 

The message of John showed where his 
heart was yearning, and for what he longed ; 
and for us to imagine for one instant that this 
great soul had ceased to care for Zion's work, 
and descended into the narrow dungeon of 
mere selfish sorrow, would be to insult and 
outrage the truest feelings of God's noble 
prisoner. No, no ; the soul of John was cast 
in a mould too grand for such treachery, and 
he had made life too true to desert its prin- 
ciples because he was captured by its enemies. 
Would God the legions of His followers were 
stronger ! He wanted to know of the battle, 
and the fate of the world's vast millions of 
prisoners fast bound in misery and iron. He 
wanted to hear if the time at last had come, 
" the acceptable year of the Lord," to set at 
liberty those who were bound. The burdens 
God called him to bear he could and would 
bear without a murmur ; but he was too true 


to his King to be unconcerned as to the great 
battle going on without, too loyal to the stand- 
ard to wear the semblance of indifference, as 
he heard the trumpets sound the onset. No, 
no ; this was the side of his nature he longed 
to bathe again in the heroic atmosphere of the 
forefront. This was a part of him Herod, nay, 
all the legions of hell could not imprison. He 
wanted to clasp hearts if he could not clasp 
hands with the hero of his God ; and so he 
sent a message, which to us may seem written 
in cipher ; but He to whom it was sent, and 
who knows the secrets of all hearts, reads it 
for us with the clearness of noonday splendor 
and the voice of the Son of God. 

Jesus received the messengers and their 
message, and that " same hour He cured 
many of their infirmities and plagues, and of 
evil spirits, and unto many that were blind he 
gave sight ;" then Jesus, answering, said unto 
them, "Go your way ; tell John what things 
ye have seen and heard." This was the an- 
swer of Jesus to the strong, deep yearnings of 
John's soul. As we said in a previous chapter, 
He sent a page of His own grand life, the 


record of one of the richest hours of action, so 
far as the eye of flesh and blood could follow- 
that action, He clasped the burning, brimming 
heart of energy John held out to Him, and 
enfolded it deep in the intense activity of His 
own life. This was no fawning nor effeminate 
compassionating over John's lot, but they met 
like the great and brave meet who press on 
side by side to crush the heart of some great 
enemy's power. It was a full pouring of the 
purposes and plans of Jesus into the heart of 
John. There was fulness of sympathy and one- 
ness of soul undergirding all the words and 
signs of this wonderful scene, filling the whole 
atmosphere with a lofty, rare fragrance of 
love and joy, with which a stranger cannot 
intermeddle, but which comes to the saint 
like morning breezes fresh from the gardens of 
the Lord. Jesus Himself was marching stead- 
ily on in the same grand path of holy self-sac- 
rifice which He couples so closely with His 
glory. This is touchingly set forth when, com- 
ing down from the Mount of Transfiguration, 
He said, " Elias is come already, and they 
knew Him not, but have done unto Him what- 


soever they listed ; likewise shall also the Son 
of Man suffer of them." There is something 
inexpressibly grand, heroic, strong, tender, and 
radiant in this greeting and parting on life's 
battle-field between John and Jesus, as they 
pass on, one to the martyr's block and the 
other to Calvary's height. Here the souls of 
the heroic, good, and true may well pause in 
hushed adoration, for a grander soul-meeting 
is not recorded on history's page. 

The whole field of this scene is rich with 
food for your and my soul — heaven's own 
manna in our wilderness pilgrimage. Let us 
eat that we faint not. If God found it neces- 
sary to send John to prison to calm, deepen, 
and steady his faith ; if He must thus say to 
that great soul, " Be still, and know that I am 
God," must we not heed such love-provings 
and faith-deepenings ? Active Christians are 
so apt to defile their faith in God by throwing 
too much stress on their own work, so God has 
ofttimes by affliction's hand to lead them to 
the mount of contemplation, or deep down in 
the valley of Achor, to show them their weak- 


ness and His strength, until the hushed soul 
nestles in sweet confidence and rest on His 
own bosom. Joseph was thus calmed in 
Pharaoh's prison, Moses in Jethro's employ, 
Samson in the days of his blindness and shorn 
locks, Elijah in Mount Horeb, Jeremiah 
through life, Daniel in Belshazzar's reign, 
John the Baptist in Herod's dungeon, Paul 
with Nero's bonds on him. Here God 
shows Christians His power to advance 
without them, and weans their faith from 
mere human plans to perfect trust in Jehovah. 
Yes, go and tell John, and, through John, 
every spirit-bound child of my love who shall 
bow in faithfulness beneath the cross, what 
things ye see and hear. Tell them the word 
of God is not bound, the arm of the Lord is 
not shortened, the heart of their Saviour has 
not grown cold. Tell them the kingdom 
moves steadily, strongly on. Tell them le- 
gions of Herod nor the combined powers of 
hell cannot bind it. Rest in your God. It 
is He, and not you, who is to win the victory. 
You have borne your testimony, and done 


your part, now stand still and see What glo- 
rious things your God will do, and thus deepen 
into eternal confidence and boundless rest on 
the bosom of Omnipotence. 



" For Herod feared John, knowing that hew as a just man 
and an holy, and observed him ; and when he heard him, 
he did many things, and heard him gladly." — Mark 6 : 20. 

r I ^HE trials of deepening gloom are those 
-*• that prove men's souls — yea, disclose to 
us whether the man rests on himself or reach- 
es down into the strength of God for the 
foundation of his hope. Few of God's great 
ones have died in the noontide of their glo- 
ry ; few, Elijah-like, have mounted from their 
earthly glory in heaven's fiery chariot. God 
has been more gracious to us in showing of 
what material His heroes are made, and 
how their splendors flash out and beam 
on, in wider, stronger glory as the darkness 
of adversity and disaster lowers about them. 
Most of them, like Jacob, can look back and 
say, as they gaze on the uncompleted plans 
and frustrated purposes that strew the path of 


bygone years, " Few and evil have the days of 
the years of my life been." But the great com- 
mand is to be faithful unto death. The child 
of this world, when he hears the crushes of 
unmerciful disaster following fast and following 
faster, may cry, It is all over : I have noth- 
ing more to live for," and sink down in despair. 
Saul may faint when the vision of Samuel pro- 
nounces his doom ; Belschazzar may, with 
crushed spirit, rush into his dark fate ; Napo- 
leon may be obliged to have his Waterloo ; 
but, thank God, the Christian soldier has 
no Waterloo, but " in our God all is yea 
and all amen." And this glorious light in 
darkness we are often called on to show 
forth by trials similar to those of John's im- 
prisonment and the work there sent him. 

To me there is nothing more grand in the life 
of the great Selwyn than these two extracts, 
which show his soul in the vortex of these 
very trials. He had seen all the hopes and 
plans of the best years of his life crushed and 
scattered by the ruthless hand of what seemed 
an unjust war. Where once the Church of God 
seemed planted as a tree by rivers of waters, 


and flourishing with the full prospect of glo- 
rious and speedy success, he saw devastation, 
desolation, decay, and sinkings into hopeless 
night. ' Yet his great soul endured as seeing 
Him who was invisible, and laying hold of Him 
whom the world could not clasp, he pressed 
on to be faithful rather than be what the 
world calls successful. He writes (vol. ii. p. 
193): " I have now one simple missionary idea 
before me, of watching over the remnant that 
is left. Our native work is a remnant in two 
senses — the remnant of a decaying people and 
the remnant of a decaying faith. The works of 
which you hear are not the works of heathen : 
they are the works of baptized men, whose love 
has grown cold from causes common to all 
churches of neophytes, from Laodicea down- 
ward." Page 209 : " And the pleasant dream, 
so full of bright hope, has melted away ; and 
the prospect of a few more years, if it be God's 
will, of plodding labor is all that remains to me 
to build up again the tabernacle which is fallen 
down. . I do not see my way to another visit 
to England ; it is more congenial to my present 
feelings to sit among my own ruins — not mop- 


ing, but tracing out the outlines of a new foun- 
dation — than to go through another course of 
public life in England." Who that has the 
heart of a man in him would not do reverence 
to such heroic faithfulness to God ? I love 
these flashes of light on the souls of God's tried 
ones, for the world has nothing like it. They 
show us those massive cables of faith which 
anchor the hope within the veil. 

We come now to look at John in this sub- 
lime trial, gathering up the fragments, and 
striding on with the same great bearing of 
splendid faith in Herod's prison walls that 
marked him the leader in Judea's wilds. Most 
men would have said, " My work is done, my 
task is ended ; I will lie meditating and wait- 
ing for my King's coming" ; but not so John. 
He was, like all of God's great Bible heroes, a 
man of action rather than mere medita- 
tion ; principle rather than the sentiment ; 
principle must act, doing His will rather than 
crying, " Lord, Lord." And so God still sent 
him work. 

Again, there are few of us who do not meet, 
sooner or later, our Herods somewhere in life's 


broad battle-field. Yes, as sure as we are active 
and true we will cross some character who, 
by some invested power or powers, some posi- 
tion, social or official, can and will be ready to 
circumscribe order, or usurp our powers for 
doing good. Satan even keeps on hand a sup- 
ply of such oppressors, *who are ready to 
patronize or imprison God's faithful ones, as 
suits his purposes best. Here, then, is a rich, 
sweet lesson for us. Pray ever for grace to do, 
then, as John the Baptist did his Herod. Make 
them feel the presence and majesty of the God 
in us. Send them away with the conviction 
written in their hearts as deeply as it was in 
Herod's: this "is a just man and an holy." 
Ah ! this is the true secret of overcoming evil, 
of lighting up our dark places, and mounting 
over our rough ones with rejoicing hearts. 
"Do good," says Jesus, "to them that hate 
you, and pray for them that despitefully use 
you." So shall our souls rest in the deep, 
sweet calm of the peace of God ; so shall our 
joy flow on rich and strong, like a mighty river 
into the ocean of our God's boundless love. 
Our prison walls will become the courts of our 

I 96 « 'MORE THA N A PR OP HE T. '■ ' 

king, and the harsh words of our adversaries 
will bear on their vibrations sweet comfort from 
our own beloved. So did John pillow his head 
on the strong rest of his true character. So 
was he as superior to Herod's meanness and 
cruelty as he was to his attempted overawings. 
So were his last days spent in triune faithful- 
ness to men, to himself, and to God. And so 
the great soul is almost transfigured before us 
into that higher ministry, where angels serve 
before their God, in spirits akin to that which 
laid aside all malice, or revenge, or despond- 
ency ; did its work with a sincerity, grandeur, 
faithfulness, and trueness, as if, Gabriel-like, 
it had been commissioned in the presence of 
God, and sent on this express errand of holy, 
strong, and victorious forbearance. He over- 
came and ascended, the great forerunner of the 
victor, " ascended King of kings and Lord 
of lords." Strange, hard, soul-trying work! 
He here confronts this prisoner of the Lord 
with this cruel, unprincipled, and wicked per- 
secutor. Herod hears John. Oh, what grace 
it requires to be faithful to your cruel, victo- 
rious oppressor. But the man sent from God 


must and will be faithful. John never de- 
scended to the folly and weakness of his own 
will, but ever stood by his great standard, and 
echoed faithfully his King's word. He did 
his work for his God, even though there 
was but a prison to work in and a Herod to 
work on, for he was a true child of the King 
and a loyal soldier of the kingdom. 

How grand and glorious is the testimony of 
these trials in adversity, when the world is 
ready to cry out, " Curse God and die." It is 
just here we may, like the eagle, renew the 
vigor of our youth. Here we may overwhelm 
the world walking only by sight. When the 
hard, bold Nebuchadnezzars see us yield our- 
selves willingly to the fiery furnace, they will 
soon be astonished, for one like the Son of God 
will make His presence felt. When Daniels 
prefer the lion's den in faithfulness to the sec- 
ond place in the kingdom in unfaithfulness, 
then soon will the Dariuses, be trembling before 
our God. Work on, when earth sees no hope. 
This is the very crown and glory of Calvary. 
What if Jesus had turned back after his con- 
demnation, and refused to go forward, because 


to earthly eyes there appeared no hope, and 
even the heavens were deepening into dark- 
ness, and the Father was mysteriously for- 
saking the Son? " Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani." 
This would have been the disaster of the 
universe. Beyond this world, tiers of watch- 
ing eyes in heaven's high dome their countless 
vigils hold, and they gaze down on the bearing 
of each arena-tried soul, to feel the glorious 
pulsations of its trueness, and crown it with 
acclamations of undying love. And if we could 
but hear the echoes of their spirit-yearnings, 
what universal peals of " Press forward, press 
forward !" would greet our ears, as they saw us 
hesitating upon nearing the line where earthly 
hope deepens into night. We must ever play 
before and for the admiration of that higher 
audience, that innumerable company of angels, 
the great assembly of the Church of the first- 
born, the spirits of just men made perfect unto 
Mount Sion, unto the city of the living God 
(Heb. 12 : 22-24). And so we endure as see- 
ing Him who is invisible, and being seen by 
those who are invisible. 



" What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed 
shaken with the wind ?" — Matt. 11:7. 

JESUS did not often give us His opinion of 
an individual. He speaks of great prin- 
ciples and laws, of the character rather than of 
the man. But when He does unfold the hu- 
man heart for us, deep, rich, and lasting is the 
scene. Of no one does He speak so frankly, 
freely, and gladly as of John the Baptist. He 
loves to dwell on the grandeur and richness of 
this splendid character, which rises by the side 
of His own life, and passes on in the pathway 
of blood into the gates of glory before Him. 
But look what characteristics of John strike 
Jesus, and behold a heavenly estimate of man 
and life. John's independence and firmness 
call forth the grand burst of admiration from 
our Lord.. He was no wind-shaken reed. The 
life of John had rooted itself deeper than the 


soil of earthly pleasure, and the motives of 
John reach higher than the sway of any earthly 
admiration. Deep down in the trueness of 
his God his life was rooted, up high in the 
purposes of God his motives were swayed. 
This grasping of the eternal gave him an even- 
ness and steadiness in his grand course as sure 
and glorious as that which marks the planets' 
pathways. This was a scene on which the eye 
of the Son of God could rest with glowing ad- 
miration. This was a living union with the liv- 
ing God, through which joy flowed between 
God and man. Jesus speaks from the richness 
of His joy, and in it a mighty, grand lesson 
comes to man — viz. : 

It is a good thing to have the soul estab- 
lished. The human heart was made for rest, 
and not to be tossed forever like the billows of 
the troubled sea. God is a God of rest. Firm 
is the throne of Jehovah, and His habitation is 
the everlasting hills. Thither would He xiave 
His children come and sit down with Him. 
The whole tone of the Bible is one grand call 
to rest. God wants us to found our house on 
the rock, and lay up our treasure beyond moth, 


rust, and thieves. He loves to see the feet 
tread firmly the foundations of eternal truth, 
and the heart lifted up until man walks gladly 
and surely along the great highway of God's 
own life, in all the steadfastness of His own un- 
changeableness ; while " the wicked are like the 
troubled sea, casting up mire and dirt." And 
yet this ever-shifting greatness is the one 
earth seeks. The men who waver like the 
reeds with every wind of popularity are the 
men of the hour, but not the men of history : 
it is so much easier to be swept on upon the 
bosom of public opinion than it is to anchor 
the soul firm to eternal right and ride out the 
tempest, taking all its beatings and lashings 
until the sky clears, and the great calm of true 
judgment is ours forever. 

We can hardly realize the great unrest of 
earth — yea, even Christendom, to-day. How 
vast are the multitudes of reeds shaken by the 
wind ! How few of the rules that govern life 
and living are as yet grounded and rooted in 
truth and right ! All this farce of fashion in 
living and dress comes of a thoughtless disre- 
gard of what is intrinsically right, what is 


really beautiful in the eyes of God, what really 
makes our lives strong, and glorious, and 
beautiful. Such ebbings and flowings tell all 
too plainly of a want of that solemn and ear- 
nest dealing with life and its powers which the 
eternal issues demand, tell loudly that even 
Christendom as yet is living more for man's ap- 
proval, than for God's, and so swayed more 
by the opinions from Vanity Fair than the 
charts of " the Interpreter's house." 

But I love the personality of this scene. I 
love to see Jesus taking man out of the multi- 
tude and dealing with him face to face, heart 
to heart. It tells me of the possibilities of 
being true amid these overwhelming surges of 
falsehood. It tells me of my Lord's sym- 
pathy in every effort to stand, even though the 
whole earth oppose me. I here see, face to 
face, the friend of Noah, who stood close to 
him through all the mockings and scoffings of 
a condemned and doomed world. And it is a 
deep, sweet rest to realize Him by my side, 
and to lay hold of the truth and reality of His 
" Come unto me*all ye that labor and are heavy 
laden, and I will give you rest." It makes no 


difference on what earth may smile or frown : 
there is yet one eye that sweeps over the 
man-moved, praise-loving multitudes as they 
surge, and mark the few firm-standing, truth- 
grounded souls, and "stands by them." He 
who loves to see the mountains stand firm amid 
all the thunderings and howlings of the tem- 
pests, and the rocks defy all the beatings of 
the sea, loves far more to see the heroic souls 
of His loyal-hearted and true ones breasting 
and breaking the waves of this world's opposi- 
tion. And He loves to lead souls, to rest them 
against the true and brave. He pointed the 
multitudes back to the comfort they derived 
from this John of the wilderness, this moun- 
tain granite, and called to their minds the rest 
they found by the steadiness of this mighty 
man. There are people who 'imagine there is 
rest in conservatism, rest half way between two 
points — " the happy medium," as they call it. 
Such men do not find rest ; half-heartedness 
can never give it, neither can half fear. Rest 
comes from oneness with God, an entire con- 
viction of and leaning on truth. John the Bap- 
tist was no conservative man, but a " man sent 


from God," unshaken by the opinions of men. 
So simple, plain, and true were the great paths 
of duty to him that we never hear of his con- 
sulting with men : our Lord alone was the dic- 
tator of his course. 

So we need not complicate life to make it 
grand and great ; rather simplify it, seize its 
great realities, and press them with all our 
might to successful issues. John did not claim 
to be versed in many schools, but he did claim 
to know the will of God in living a true life. 
He did stand fast, rejoicing in truth. A few 
great truths lived are far better than a great 
many theories unlived. Not what we can 
dream, but what we can do forms our charac- 
ters and limits our conquests in life. " Whoso- 
ever doeth the will of my Father which is in 
heaven," he shall enter the kingdom of heaven. 
Let life never be so complicated as to be a 
tangled dream. Never let plans be so numer- 
ous as to be but a series of mistakes. What- 
ever we undertake for God or man, count the 
cost, and thus be able to stand. 

We are in an age that sadly needs rest : the 
rest of stability, the home joys of true charac- 


ter, sending the pulsations of confidence bound- 
ing through every department of life. The in- 
tense hurry and change of progress keeps the 
heart, if not the head, in a whirl. It is this 
restless whirl that ofttimes so blurs the vision 
of scientists as to make them think that the 
God of nature and the God of revelation are 
antagonistic. What we all need is a deeper, 
steadier, firmer Christian life, that shall pass in 
and out — the light and joy of the world. 
Who has not met and does not know some 
unshaken reed, standing firm and steady above 
all life's fickle tossings, unmoved by the smiles 
and frowns of the popular horde, true to the 
very core ? and who does not realize that this 
class of men and women form the pillars of all 
that is worth having in the political, social, and 
religious world ? They anchor all the truth 
that is held in their vast systems. Jesus sees 
and knows such men as these must form the 
basis of all true government, in church, state, 
or family ; it is the governing principle which 
seems to rise before Him in the question, 
■' What went ye out into the wilderness to 
see?" For government underlies all joy, all 


rest. Law is the cradle of peace, the centre of 
strength. The foundation of character and 
stability must rest on law, not on chance. 
John the Baptist stands out before Christ, as 
at rest, and a leader to the rest he enjoj^ed ; 
and it was sweet to Jesus to feel this strong 
life working within His own. He loves to 
trust the trustworthy ; He loves to honor 
and crown the brave-hearted. It is a joy 
to hear the voice of our leader thus coming 
through the strife, and encouraging us at our 
post. It is glory already to feel the strong ap- 
proval of His spirit coming to our relief. Mark 
you, these are words John the Baptist did not 
hear. It seems the messengers had gone 
ere Jesus spoke them, and not until he passed 
up into glory may John have known or 
heard this splendid eulogy from the lips of 
Jesus. And so we are often left to walk by 
faith, which is far grander than to live on 
praise. We must look to our opinion of Jesus, 
for there is the danger. He will be sure not to 
wrong us. He will be sure to crown us with 
our fullest glory ; but we are not so sure to 
crown Him with the fulness which is His due. 


Thus He leaves us, as He left John the Baptist, 
to struggle on into the cleft of the Rock of 
Ages, and wait to see the heart of Jesus 
open in all its richness of love for each one of 
us. Of all the revelations of heaven, I reckon 
none will be more sweet and astonishing to 
each heart than the personal love of Jesus. 
When I come to know how much Jesus 
loves me individually, it will be heaven in its 
fulness, life in its vastness, glory in its zenith, 
joy unspeakable, wherewith my soul shall be 
eternally satisfied. 



" But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in 
"soft raiment ? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in 
kings' houses." — Matt, ii : 8. 

JESUS now views John in social life, its 
pleasures and luxuries. He had in- 
dicated the stability of his character, the firm- 
ness of his principles, and now He points to 
his triumph over self. The reed which could 
not be shaken by the wind could neither be 
made the victim of self-indulgence. The hero 
who could stand alone firm and true, despite 
all the storms and blasts of man's opposition, 
could remain true through all the deceitful 
smiles of men's fortunes. John saw an inde- 
pendence and nobility of life in the camel's- 
hair robe and leathern girdle that he knew 
was incompatible with purple and fine linen. 
And our Lord would say, as it were, to the 
multitude, " If you did not find a man in the 


wilderness seeking the favor of men, neither 
did you find one seeking selfish gratification 
and ease ; so you must look deeper for the 
motives that made his life so strong, and called 
you out into the wilderness to hear the sound 
of his voice." 

Many a man who has withstood all the on- 
sets of his fellow-men has fallen a sad victim 
to himself. Nor does this require that he 
should tread in the footsteps of Alexander the 
Great, to be slain by the winecup. There is a 
kind of intemperance which society fondles 
and lauds, which is as deadly to the higher des- 
tinies of the soul as wine is to the body. It is 
the intemperance of self-abandonment to pleas- 
ure, the submerging of life into worldly lux- 
ury, such as drown men's souls in floods of ease 
and sap life of its truest force and glory. 
John the Baptist stood out grander to the eyes 
of Jesus and nearer to the heart of Jesus be- 
cause he never, for one moment, ceased to 
press forward and strike hard for the salvation 
of his fellow-men. The very simplicity and 
unselfishness of his attire were sources of ad- 
miration to his Lord. God loves economy in 


life, loves to see the powers He gives us all 
kept at their best ; and here He unhesitatingly 
and fully sets his approval on that state of 
mind which reduces worldly care to the min- 
imum in order that spiritual work shall have its 
maximum. Nowhere in His word does God 
approve of luxurious living. It is true, " Solo- 
mon was arrayed in all his glory," but it is 
equally true that this state of life sapped his 
manhood and tarnished his name. 

Now, during his life perhaps John heard no 
word of approval for his dress. That inner 
consciousness of greater things made him glad 
that he could, by self-denial, press that much 
deeper into the joys of true life. He laid hold 
of what was beyond, and, St. Paul-like, cast 
aside every weight, to run with patience the 
race set before him. The freedom from 
worldly care which he enjoyed was rich com- 
pensation for all the self-denials he endured. 
Perhaps he never thought of the joy God felt 
in the details of his life. But here God shows 
us His interest in all the common trials and 
duties of life. If we could but realize this 
fully ; if the heart could just feel the presence 


of the Lord in all the orderings of life's drudg- 
ery, what a world of care would be uplifted 
from the bowed spirit, what vast wastes of 
vain strugglings would be prevented ! We 
could press on through the pomps and vani- 
ties up into the stanch realities. Well, He is 
here ; for He has said, " I will never leave nor 
forsake thee." These are no idle words on the 
lips of the Son of God. Can a mother be un- 
mindful of the details of her little one's life ? 
Are the dresses and food and pains and sor- 
rows of their young lives beneath her notice ? 
Do they not enter into and form a part 
of her own life ? Just so surely do all the de- 
tails of the life of every child of God enter into 
His own. Can our Lord express this more 
powerfully than when He assures us that it is 
with this very feeling He shall sit on the judg- 
ment throne in final judgment, bringing out 
His identity with His little ones in the startling 
words, " I was an hungered, and ye gave me no 
meat ; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink ; 
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in ; 
naked, and ye clothed me not ; sick, and in 
prison, and ye visited me not. Verily, I say 


unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of 
the least of these, ye did it not unto me." 
Human thought cannot invent or conceive an 
expression that will show so close a union — yea, 
oneness of Jesus with His little ones, as these 
words of His — a oneness He will maintain to 
the day of judgment, when all will be ushered 
into that eternal joy* which arises from a full 
realization of our communion with God. Why, 
then, should life's drudgery make us afraid, 
or bow our spirits in sorrow and gloom ? May 
we not cast all on Jesus ? We may ; we may. 
Hear Him : " Cast all your care on Him, for 
He careth for you," is His own message left 
us by His apostle. " Why art thou so cast 
down, O my soul, and why art thou so troubled 
within me ? Put thy trust in God, for I will 
yet give Him thanks who is the help of my 
countenance and my God." 

" Can a mother's tender care 

Cease toward the child she bear ? 

Yes, she may forgetful be ; 

Still will I remember thee." 

Can we afford to sap manhood and woman- 
hood by self-indulgence ? Shall the sons and 
daughters of God enact again the sad tragedy 


of Samson and sleep, fondled on the lap of 
worldly care, while the locks of their might are 
silently but surely cut away ? Who has fath- 
omed the depths of that expression, " using 
the world, and not abusing it" ? Who has 
mastered the art of gathering from life's treas- 
ures the greatest power and fullest nobility of 
heart ? We are sons of God ; let us not walk 
as slaves of flesh. The moment we overesti- 
mate a worldly pleasure, that moment we have 
leaned the soul against a lie, and sooner or 
later we must awake to the sad consciousness 
of our misplaced confidence. Surely we have 
meat to eat the world knows not of ; for " man 
shall not live by bread alone, but by every 
word that proceedeth out of the mouth of 
God." We have clothing to wear the world 
cannot appreciate — that inner adorning of a 
meek and quiet life, the righteousness of saints 
our pure linen, white and clean, which forms 
the wedding garment at the marriage supper 
of the Lamb. Let us seek these, that when 
He comes we may not be found naked. Let 
the world have its " purple and fine linen," let 
Dives fare sumptuously every day ; but let 


the children of the King put on their beautiful 
garments and sit down at the table of their 
Father, which is the same from which Jesus 
feasted at the well of Samaria. 

Truly, this subject is one of vast and awful 
importance to the Church of God at this very 
moment. By whom do Christians gauge their 
standard of living — the time-honored saints 
of God or the vainglorious leaders of worldly 
extravagance ? Do the daughters of Israel 
seek the patterns of their attire and costs of 
their household from the deep, true, and sa- 
cred pages of God's word, or from the folios of 
worldly magazines and bazaars ? Are Christian 
homes regulated by the standard of Christ in 
this matter, or by the demands of a vainglo- 
rious world ? These questions answer them- 
selves. As surely as there- is a future for the 
Church of God, just so surely must the stand- 
ard of Christian fashions and Christian living 
in that future conform to the word of God. 
This wild waste and devastation which we see 
sweeping in its might through Christendom 
arises from Christians joining pell-mell in 
the contest for worldly fashion and worldly 


folly. Let Caesar have Caesar's, but give God 
God's. Let the men and women who prefer 
being counted like the children of this world, 
go ; but let them not be mentioned as those 
who shall walk with the Son of God, for they 
are not worthy. 

Lastly, our Lord says, " Behold, they that 
wear soft clothing are in kings' houses." Why 
mention this fact ? Why throw in this allusion 
in the centre of His grand eulogy of His be- 
loved John the Baptist ? Was it not to show 
us the difference between this world's ease and 
that of the world to come ? Earth's idea of 
rest, and heaven's idea of rest ? Yes, truly, 
earth seeks to soften its clothing, and robe it- 
self indelicacy ; but alas, Naaman-like, " it is a 
leper." The powers of this world strive to 
realize happiness here, hence kings' courts are 
full of luxuries. Earthly comforts gravitate 
around earthly powers, and thrs is just the 
danger : that position in this world is encom- 
passed with worldly lusts and ease which slay 
their millions. Jesus shows us that His true 
and brave ones have no powers to waste or 
time to lose in such lives. They must reach 


higher and live deeper, not making provisions 
for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof, but 
" laying up for themselves treasures in 
heaven." There is a king in whose courts 
they shall meet : it is the King of Glory. 
There are garments waiting for them : the robes 
washed white in the blood of the Lamb, to 
shine as stars forever and ever. There is a 
rest for them : it is the rest that remaineth 
for the people of God." 


" More than a prophet." — Matt, ii : g. 

JESUS here sets a higher value on John 
than on a mere prophet. There is some- 
thing nobler, stronger, grander in His eyes 
than prophetic vision, and John had that some- 
thing, which is the living contact with the du- 
ties and battles of life. It is grander to stand 
out in the realities of life than to behold them 
in vision. Better to be in days of reality than 
in the shadows of their forecasting. John the 
Baptist opened the great battle through which 
the violent, as if by force, took the kingdom 
of heaven. He spoke as a man in the midst 
of the very things about which he spoke. He 
was a man realizing the greatness of the age in 
which he lived, and laying hold of that great- 
ness. " The kingdom of heaven is at hand" 
was the startling cry from the burning realiza- 


tion of his soul. " There standeth one in 
your midst" were his words about Jesus, their 
expected Messiah. " The axe is laid at the 
root of the tree" are the startling words of 
warning against sin and a fruitless religion. 
" I am the voice of one crying in the wilder- 
ness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord," was his 
idea of himself. These burning realizations in 
the heart of the Baptist gave his life a brawni- 
ness of principle, a mighty force of action, that 
drew from the lips of our Lord Himself the 
words, " More than a prophet ; none greater of 
women born." 

There are people who spend their heart's 
yearnings in vain longings to penetrate the 
mysteries of the future, craving even the pro- 
phetic vision, looking ever into to-morrow's 
darkness. To such we say, in the presence of 
our Lord's words, " This is not the grandest 
or truest life you crave. God has thrown your 
destiny in the midst of a glorious present ; the 
realities of now press upon you with loud 
clamorings and splendid possibilities. Waste 
not the moments, but grasp these mighty open- 
ings for God. Be a John the Baptist, a man of 


the present, for only then can you be a true 
man of the future. Only by bringing the 
present to its true focus are we prepared to be- 
hold the outlines of the future with hearts of 
participating joy. Balaam's vision of Israel's 
glory was also a vision of his own shame and 
downfall, for his heart could not follow the 
march of Jehovah as could his vision. Jonah 
prayed to die amid that glorious manifestation 
of God's pardoning love to penitent Nineveh, 
f orjiis vision of God's will was stronger than 
his love of that will. The joy of present duty 
seems to have faded from the man's life ; he 
sought the comfort and delight of living, more 
by what he knew than what he was, and so had 
no joy in himself. The present was antago- 
nistic, harsh, and depressing to him. He was 
only a prophet, and not " more than a proph- 
et." Ah, the glories of to-day/ 'The light 
shineth in darkness, and the darkness compre- 
hendeth it not." All around us are opportu- 
nities angels might well envy us, openings 
such as moved the Son of God from the throne 
of His glorious majesty to walk amid men, 
disclosing life and immortality in the glory of 


His life — that life He lived within this world's 
every-day doings. 

Again, John was " more than a prophet" 
by the heroism and zeal of his doing. It is 
grander, nobler, stronger, greater to do than 
to tell. John not only spoke the presence of 
the king, but he lived it. The presence of his 
Master was stamped on every page of his life. 
It was woven into his dress, reigned at his 
table, spoke in his sermons, thundered in his re- 
bukes, and marched triumphantly through all 
his conflicts. John brought all his faith into 
line of battle. He hurled the powers of his re- 
ligion against the evils of sin like an avalanche, 
and this made him " more than a prophet." 

Alas, how many lives have " a form of god- 
liness, but deny the power thereof" ! How 
many speak His praises with the tongue, but 
plan and execute life without counting Him in 
it ! How many parents bring their children, 
and in baptism's sacred compact solemnly 
dedicate and give them to God, and go 
straight away into the great schools of pride, 
ambition, and avarice, where they train those 
children for " the world, the flesh, and the 


devil," to the damnation of their own and the 
children's souls ! How many come forward in 
confirmation, by word and form ratify and 
take upon themselves all the vows of baptism, 
in the presence of Jehovah and His Church, yet 
go on seeking selfish aims and gratification, 
leaving the fields of Zion to languish ! How 
many come to the Holy Communion, and in 
the presence of the emblems of our Lord's 
shed blood and pierced body profess and say, 
" We offer up ourselves, our souls and bodies, 
to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice 
unto thee," when they will neither brave 
danger nor suffer privation to carry the Gospel 
of their Lord to millions who are perishing for 
the want of it, and though Jesus commands 
every member of His Church to see this Gospel 
pressed forward to the conquest of the whole 
world, until it is preached to every creature ! 
Alas ! those who talk and do not are legions, 
and the great stagnation in Christendom and 
devastation in heathendom, comes from rank 
disobedience and bold Ananias and Sapphirism. 
God be merciful to us, and grant us grace to 
do His will as well as to profess it, John the 


Baptist-like, to make our religion strong, true, 
live, real, and victorious. 

Again, John the Baptist was " more than a 
prophet" in that he pressed into all the battles 
and conflicts of the kingdom instead of con- 
templating them afar off. John was no 
dreamer ; he was a man of action, a hero in the 
forefront. His theology was not that of the 
monastery, but of the battle-field. To know 
was to do with him. He "was a man sent 
from God," a whole man, with all the powers of 
manhood developed to the full, economized to 
the uttermost, and pressed with all the energy 
his soul could bring to bear on them far 
up into the battle. His was the joy of doing. 
The kingdom of heaven was at hand, and its 
joys came with it just as really as its duties and 
trials. His was not one of the souls divided 
from all the joys of heaven by the cold, dark 
stream of death. Oh, no ! To be true and 
pure and alive to God's glorious will brought 
him a joy in the solitudes of the wilderness, a 
glorious exultation in the gloom of the fatal 
imprisonment. It is so hard for men to realize 
that the kingdom of God is within them. We 


pine for the glory to come, when, if we would 
but take it, lo, the glory is all around us : that 
joy which thrilled the soul of Jesus as He ex- ■ 
claimed, " These things have I spoken unto 
you, that my joy might remain in you, and 
your joy might be full." Let all the idle 
dreamings of heaven give place to the real joy 
of participation in the very will of God, which 
makes heaven even here. Then shall we catch 
the sweetness of our oft - uttered prayer, 
1 Thy will be done on earth as it is in 
heaven." With what exalted rapture do the 
angels speed on in His will. John had this, 
and it made him " more than a prophet." It 
made the kingdom to his soul a present, liv- 
ing, joyous reality, instead of a future event, 
cold and distant. And even now the heavenly 
manna lies all about us, if we would but pick it 
up. The sweet dews of heaven lie fresh and 
beautiful all along life's pathway, if we but 
had life and realization enough in our hearts to 
sip them. But we must be found in the fore- 
front if we would enjoy the presence of our 
God, found a child of the kingdom if we would 
taste the feast of its fatness. We cannot afford 


to sit and muse dreamily about golden gates, 
crystal seas, and seraphic anthems. No, no ; 
we must do more than this. We must bury 
life in God's purposes until it is fired by that 
same heroic love that sends the cherubim and 
seraphim speeding at His word; that beat in 
the bosom of St. John the Baptist, and carried 
all that glorious army of " loyal hearts and 
true" triumphantly into the fulness of eternal 
love and rest. 

Such are some of the thoughts arising as we 
behold John the Baptist pressing nearer and 
deeper into Christ's great love than a mere 
prophet, and such some of the comforts and 
consolations bursting forth from these words of 
Jesus in streams of everlasting gladness from 
the garden of the Lord. The life He gives us 
is rich beyond comprehension with joys and 
glories of living, loving, and doing, to which 
the mere visions of the Christian future are 
not to be compared for an instant. There is a 
joy within our reach — rich clusters from the 
trees of heaven's own happiness swinging low 
and ripe over the humblest, hardest path of 
duty, along which the footfalls of the least of 


God's little ones resounds. Surely, here is a 
broad door opened directly to the heart of 
Jesus, through which we may look and see 
what characters may press in to occupy the 
seats of honor in the great feast of His love. 


" Notwithstanding, he that is least in the kingdom of 
heaven is greater than he." — Matt, ii : n; 

CO says the Son of God of one that stood 
^ equal to any of woman born — a man 
who in the eyes of Jesus, that great Judge 
who will pass eternal sentence upon every soul 
of man, and who is truth itself — John the Bap- 
tist, unsurpassed by Enoch, Noah, Abraham, 
Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, 
Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, as they stood out in 
their full glory before the Son of God ; yet 
has He said that the least in the kingdom of 
heaven is greater than he. Words well calcu- 
lated to make the thoughtful ponder, and, pon- 
dering, tremble before the majesty of the dis- 
pensation which is upon us, and through 
whose awful responsibilities and exalted op- 
portunities we must press on to meet God and 
the judgment. This sentence bursts from the 
lips of Jesus like a peal of exultation, as His 


heart leaps in the joy of the glorious victory, 
so soon to cast down the powers and princi- 
palities of darkness, to rend the veil of ob- 
scurity asunder, and let light and immortality 
burst upon the world, shining brighter and 
brighter unto the perfect day. He sees the 
grand end of all these agonizings of body and 
spirit, and for the moment seems enraptured as 
if death were already " swallowed up in vic- 
tory." Thus it is Jesus makes each human 
soul, as it passes before Him in Messianic mis- 
sion, flash out splendors for the march of 
coming ages, and every man, therefore, in 
some way lightens or darkens the pathway of 
life for others coming after. 

Yes, we truly are greater in the advantages 
and opportunities of the kingdom of God than 
was John the Baptist. He struggled long and 
hard, agonizing in the wilderness and by Jor- 
dan's turbid waters until he heard the voice 
of the Bridegroom, saw the Lamb of God ; but 
never while on earth did John see the full 
splendors of the Sun of Righteousness. Here 
and there the healing rays bursting through the 
darkness lighted up his hard but glorious 


battle-front. At intervals the voice of the Bride- 
groom was borne to his ears, causing his heart 
to leap with joy unspeakable, of which he him- 
self could only say, " This my joy is fulfilled," 
or filled full ; but the darkness again gathered 
in deepening folds around him, and lone silence 
reigned through the unbroken gloom for long 
weary days and nights of watchings, waitings, 
and sufferings. John had no New Testament, 
no Calvary to light those days of gloom. 
What would he have given for the fourteenth 
chapter of St. John's Gospel, as his companion 
in the prison of Herod ! What raptures would 
have thrilled his innermost soul if Jesus had 
simply said, " Let not your heart be troubled : 
ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my 
Father's house are many mansions : if it were 
not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a 
place for you. And if I go and prepare a place 
for you, I will come again, and receive you 
unto myself ; that where I am, there ye may be 
also." If John the Baptist had had only these 
words of Jesus, how completely would they 
have annihilated Herod's prison and made it 
the antechamber of heaven ! How deep and 


sweet would they have made the rest of his 
weary, lone waitings ! How amply would they 
have paid him for all the moments of the 
Bridegroom's absence with these words: "I 
will receive you unto myself, that where I am 
there ye may be also." But John had not 
these. He had the great outlines of God's 
everlasting justice, truth, mercy, and love, and 
to these he anchored his tossed soul, sure and 
steadfast, without seeing all the beautiful 
symmetry and playings of life fill urj the divine 
structure, as Jesus, by word, touch, tone, and 
look, manifested God in the flesh. Surely, 
" the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater 
than he" in these glorious privileges. It is 
for even you and me to look on the heart of 
Jesus as it lies open before us in the New Tes- 
tament, and behold " His glory as of the only- 
begotten Son of the Father, full of grace and 
truth." Surely we can exultingly exclaim, " In 
Him is life, and that life is the light of man." 
We have pressed on out into that vast stream 
of mercy which Ezekiel saw gushing forth from 
the house of God (Ezk. 47 : 1-5), past the ankle 
depths, past the knee and loin depths, and 


sweep on now in the full current of that mighty 
river of His love — " waters to swim in, a river 
that cannot be passed over." If modern 
science cowers and quails beneath the un- 
fathomable might and majesty of His material 
creatures' vastness and glory, much more can- 
not His spiritual universe of glory be compre- 
hended, save in the clearness of that day that 
has neither sun nor night, and in the fulness 
of that development which " as yet doth not 
appear to us," but which can be told only in 
the words, " when we see Him we shall be like 
Him." Then may we begin truly to penetrate 
this volume of His glorious love, over which 
the angels are now bending with deep, search- 
ing spirits. Then we will begin to compre- 
hend with " all the saints the breadth, and 
length, and depth, and height, and to know 
the love of Christ which passeth knowledge" 
(Eph. 3 : 18). Yes, God is surely unfolding 
Himself, and the light of His glorious nature 
is falling brighter and brighter on the pyramid 
of ages, until all shall shine with the eternal 
splendors of the " perfect day," But do we 
realize it ? Do our hearts see with humble, 


adoring gratitude the crowding splendors of 
His love, bursting on us ever more and more, 
and filling our lives with possibilities of joy 
that even such heroes as John the Baptist could 
not reach, though he climbed and struggled 
with all the holy, consuming zeal of his soul ? 
Again, if the least in the kingdom of heaven 
was greater than John the Baptist in the ful- 
ness of the knowledge of our Lord's life, so is 
he in the vastness of opportunities for glorify- 
ing God. John's sphere was a narrow one. 
Repent, repent, repent, was almost the reach 
of his Gospel. The king was coming — yea, had 
arrived, and the kingdom was at hand ; but of 
its marvellous vastness, tenderness, pliability 
of love, and exquisiteness of mercy, John's 
Gospel did not tell. Jesus must bring life and 
immortality to light. Jesus must take the 
great, warm, brooding fatherhood of God, and 
enfold the poor, lone, orphan, sin-banished 
heart of man in it again. Jesus was to teach 
us to pray, " Our Father." John taught and 
saw God as a king. Jesus taught God, and 
loved God as the Father ; and insomuch as 
the privileges of a child exceed those of a sub- 


ject, just so much does the least in the king- 
dom of heaven exceed John's situation and 
advantages of the relationship of the soul to 
God, and the priceless privileges of prayer. 
Then came the flashes of light down upon the 
eternal hereafter and the state of those passed 
over the dark river. Jesus lifts the veil and 
shows us Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, and 
bequeaths to us all the rich heritage of social 
and family joys of the hereafter that His pre- 
cious word discloses. Jesus tells the shortness 
of time ere the ransomed soul passes into its 
joys, and the immediate nearness with which 
we press up to Him, when He says to the 
dying thief, " To-day shalt thou be with me 
in Paradise." John only saw the palace of 
the King through the dimness of the morning 
twilight. The least one in the kingdom of 
heaven sees his " Father's house of many man- 
sions" in the ever-clearing splendors of the 
rising sun. John looked on the narrow con- 
fines of Israel as the sphere of his action ; we 
move out to the battle with the mighty watch- 
word, " Thy kingdom come, thy will be done 
on earth as it is in heaven." Yes, a salvation 


as broad as humanity, girding a lost world, as 
pure as the angels breathing the atmosphere 
of heaven. 

Surely, our hearts may well cry out, " Hold, 
Lord, thy servants can stand no more." 
Who is sufficient for these things ? And in- 
stead of praying, " Lead kindly light amid the 
encircling gloom," may we not lift our eyes 
from the dark valleys of Achor to the glories 
of the everlasting hills, and say, with a loftier, 
deeper, sweeter realization than ever before, 

" Rock of Ages, cleft for me, 
Let me hide myself in thee," 

in the same sense that Moses and Elijah would 
have sung these words while Jehovah's glory 
passed by them. For we may well tremble at the 
unmeasured possibilities and glories of the sta- 
tion God has given us. " How shall we escape if 
we neglect so great a salvation" and realiza- 
tion of life — we who look at the horrors of 
sin and the glories of love through the light of 
Mount Calvary, and taste life in the richness of 
the dispensation of the everlasting gospel ? 



"And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison." — 
Matt. 14 : 10. 

T3 E y e also ready," says Jesus, " for at such 
-■-' time as ye think not the Son of Man 

cometh." How truly these words describe the 
departure of God's great reformer. The day 
dawned as usual, but soon was made bois- 
terous by the festivities of Herod's birthday 
feast. Perhaps John could hear much of the 
outer activity, and knew well it meant a day 
of feasting and joy at the court. Certainly, 
there were no indications that it was to be, 
too, the great day of his passage into the 
realms of glory. Herod goes to his friends, 
and John stays with his God. The wild, licen- 
tious revelry goes on in the palace, the sacred 
communings in the prison. Suddenly John 
hears the tramp of soldiers, the clangor of ar- 
mor ; the door opens, the executioner stands 


before him and tells his errand. Silently the 
deep hush falls, and God in sacred love veils a 
scene we may not know until we stand with 
the great forerunner on the hills of Zion. One 
thing we do know : quick and perhaps painless 
was the passage of this mighty soul into glory. 

Let us contrast this death with the ascen- 
sion of his great prototype, " Elijah the Tish- 
bite." Both men had met the armies of 
wickedness with brows of brass and nerves of 
steel ; both swept on in that grand, lone, stern 
singleness of purpose, bowing the minds of a 
nation in their might ; both men especially 
favored of God with inner strength and great, 
deep joy in His purposes. Yet how different 
the death-bed scenes. Around Elijah the very 
heavens lowered, and their fiery chariot bore 
him up to the realms of glory. Neither did 
the moment of his ascension come unex- 
pectedly to him, nor his dearest and truest 
friend, Elisha. God touched both of their 
minds, and made them realize the coming 

Thus God's dealings often appear to us con- 
tradictory. But no ; the glory of His name 


and His servants stands ever before Him, and 
every motion of His hand, impulse of His will, 
decree of His kingdom, moves toward these. 
Elijah passed up as every man would like to 
do ; John passed up as only great, heroic sol- 
diers of God dare to do. 

John's latter end was a stronger testimony 
of his trueness and greatness than Elijah's. 
God suffered the waves to beat with relentless 
cruelty and pitiless force on the bosom of John. 
He never was permitted to see his enemies 
humbled, nor their vindictiveness crushed. 
Elijah went forward with the army of Jehovah, 
laying all low until the nations trembled at his 
word, and the king cowed before his holy 
majesty. Yet John was not his inferior, 
neither in the power he wielded over men's 
destinies, nor the love of his God ; and that 
God permitted him to march on in the great- 
ness of his might through the bloody jaws of 
death, up into glory ; and in so doing he 
heads the columns of a long and glorious army 
of heroic sons of God. If his death was 
harder to flesh and blood, it was a more glo- 
rious victory over flesh and blood. If the star 


of his faith was plunged in the gloom of a 
darker night, it shines all the brighter to those 
who must pass the gloomy portals of trials and 
the horrors of that night. Yes, we feel the 
help and brotherhood of John's death, while 
the splendors of Elijah's translation may daz- 
zle but do not lift us. 

Again, we see the goodness and glory of God 
in the very seeming harshness and heaviness of 
John's trials and death. Here was a man God 
could and did put in the forefront of the hot- 
test battle, and call on earth and heaven to be- 
hold, admire, and rejoice over the massiveness 
of his heroism. If we would but make them 
open by the grace of God and prayerful faith- 
fulness, we would find that the so-called 
calamities of life sent to try us are as rich 
with blessings as are successfully accomplished 
plans. That was a grand triumph when Satan 
returned from the arena where he had been 
pressing Job with infernal fury and malignity. 
Yes, he returned baffled, defeated, crest- 
fallen, compelled to do homage to the heroic 
love of God's great champion, while heaven 
shouted the glorious victory, and God Himself, 


descending, talked with the victor, worn, tried, 
tired, and forlorn, but true, true, true, still. 
Such are the characters needed, not only to 
glorify God in our days and times, but to lead 
forward men, to bring out the courage and de- 
votion of the pilgrim bands. There has been a 
great dearth of martyr blood, and the fields of 
Zion languish. The hardihood of the Cross 
soldier dies into a sickly sentimentalism. The 
alms of the churches are largely expended on 
their own fancies and love of show. Great 
breaches are made in the outer walls which 
protect state, family, and altar, and the surg- 
ing tides of devastation sweep in upon us. 
There must be a firmer stand. There must be 
the spirit revived that can walk undaunted 
through a field of blood. Earth's followers are 
risking and spending more for their cause 
than the people who are named after Christ. 
Come, let us press closer by the side of this 
man of God with our own lives, and count it 
a glory to die as he died, so brave, so true. 
Let us call back the multitudes who would 
search far and wide for Elijah's chariot, and 
form them close and strong around the mar- 


tyr block of John the Baptist. We know that 
God has chariots of fire and horses of fire ever 
at command, and He can at any moment array 
them on the mountains ; but would that fire 
the hearts of His army ? Nay ; to rouse us the 
mere cry of " the chariot of Israel and the horse- 
men thereof" will not do ; we must see Davids 
going forth with their lives in their hands, see 
Johns again laying their necks on the martyr's 

The deed was done. John the Baptist had 
won the martyr crown, and lit a fire whose 
livid flames shall ever flash from heart to 
heart as long as there is one spark of Chris- 
tianity in the bosom of man. He needed no long 
death-bed scene to bequeath this legacy. He 
died as he had lived, with that bold, startling 
decision and promptness. His followers came 
in, took up the headless trunk, buried it, and 
went and told Jesus. Ah, well did Jesus know 
it ere they came ! Had not His soul joined 
the shout of triumph which resounded through 
heaven as this brave spirit passed its portals ? 
And yet His answer to the heart-stricken 
mourners was, " Come ye apart and rest 


awhile." He Himself "departed unto a 
desert place." Here, then, we get the key to 
unlock the richness of this inheritance left the 
Christian Church by John the Baptist. With 
Jesus, let us retire into deep meditation, until 
our souls grasp the great principles of his life, 
and we feel the mighty sinews of his struggles 
nerving our weak hearts ; contemplate the 
secret springs of his power until we can feel 
the same uprisings of soul within us, and move 
forward, counting life precious only as it shows 
our love for the glory of God over and above 
everything else. Yes, " Come ye apart and 
rest awhile," that your souls may settle down 
and rest on the goodness and mercy of God, 
lest these mighty shocks make shipwreck of 
faith. After every trial of life we need to go 
and tell Jesus and then rest awhile, as we bathe 
the soul anew in the sympathy and spirit of 
God. Carry every wound received in the bat- 
tle to the Great Physician, and let Him pour in 
the balm of Gilead. Blessed attitude ! to sit 
quietly by the side of the tombs of loved ones 
in sweet companionship with Jesus. These 
death-gaps are calls away from the terrible 


whirl of this world to hours of soothing medi- 
tation with Him who is Lord of both quick and 
dead ; for He loves to meet us at the tombs of 
loved ones and share the sorrows of our hearts. 
Precious, loving Saviour ! What would this 
world of aching, breaking hearts do without 
thee ? And yet there are men and devils who 
would take thee from us. But whom will they 
give us instead, to whom we may go and tell 
our heart-troubles, to give the rest thou givest ? 



" But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they 
knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they 
listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them." 
— Matt. 17 : 12. 

\li 7E here see and feel one of the impres- 
' * sions made on the heart of Jesus by 
the life and death of John the Baptist. And 
this impression of our Lord throws a flood of 
light over life's aims, trials, and ends. 

We may have been astonished and con- 
founded at the apparent neglect of John by 
our Lord ; but here we look into the great 
heart of Jesus, and catch a dim outline of the 
character and motives that led to such treat- 
ment of the " saints of all ages," for John was 
no exception. God nowhere manifests Himself 
as a sentimental fondler of human weakness, 
but a great admirer and reverencer of holy 
heroism. The fact that Jesus was in Galilee at 


the time of John's darkest and hardest trials 
argues not that he was under any greater obli- 
gation, therefore, to go to his rescue or com- 
fort any more than to come to ours or any other 
saint's ; for distance is no barrier to the move- 
ments of the Lord : it is just as easy for Him to 
flash from the throne of glory into the pres- 
ence of any being in the universe as it was to 
walk in the palace or prison of Herod for 
John's sake. If John had a right to complain 
of neglect by his Lord, because He came not, 
so has every prisoner of Jesus of every age and 
clime. But, thank God, the Christian life is 
lifted on a higher plane, and moulded in a 
grander form. The heroes of our God stand 
out like mighty men, and bear themselves like 
men of renown, and not a set of mere fond- 
lings, with no character in them. Tender, 


fond, affectionate, and loving, they are and 
must be ; but undergirding all of these beat the 
surges of a great, brave life sweeping on to 
glorious victory. Jesus knew this from all 
eternity, and He made John feel and realize it 
too. Yea, and every saint will catch the same 
glorious key-note of eternal life as the pulsa- 


tions of God's spirit beat within him. Our 
Lord, instead of taking John out of his danger 
and death, said He would follow on, and cause 
His own great soul to traverse the deep valley, 
His own precious feet " to tread the winepress 
alone," with a greatness of anguish no mortal 
ever before felt. His own sacred lips, which 
had feasted from eternity on the honey and 
the honeycomb of God's love profound, would 
He compel to drain to the dregs that myste- 
rious cup of anguish, even though it should 
drive the sweat-drops of agony in traces of 
blood from His face. Yes, man eats bread by 
the sweat of his brow, but Jesus gave the 
world the bread of life by the sweat of agony 
and blood. Did it not cause Jesus struggles 
within ? Yes, such as we may dwell on for all 
eternity, with ever deepening and adoring 
love, but never, never, never fathom. Yet 
even now we hear Him echoing His soul's 
anguish in such words as, " Now is my soul 
troubled, and what shall 1 say ? Father, de- 
liver me from this hour ; but for this cause 
came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy 
name" (John 12 : 27). Here we catch an echo 


from the great inner chambers of life ; a note 
of its eternal trueness is sounded, a light is 
flashed down on the mysteries of living, and a 
fountain is open from which comes a deep gush 
of heaven's joy. Here we see that the aims of 
life are by no means worldly ease or temporal 
exemption from the anguish of the conflict, 
but that we come into the world just for the 
purpose of drinking deep cups of sorrow and 
meeting hard hours of trial. To shun these is 
to shun life's greatness and heaven's glory. 
And so we see Jesus pressing on up by the 
side of John in the battle, rather than recalling 
him from its fury. 

This must continue so long as the kingdom 
of our God is assaulted and devastated by sin, 
so long as wrong runs riot, and violence covers 
the earth. Who would wish to come back 
from the battle-front and leave the colors of 
the Master to be dragged down and dishonored 
by His enemies ? Yet a want of realizing this 
spirit of Christianity has sadly lowered the 
standard and brought great weakness in the 
armies of the living God. Babes are whining 
where strong men should be shouting paeans of 


victory. When will the minister of the blessed 
Gospel learn to train up men to endure hard- 
ness as "good soldiers of Christ Jesus"? 
When will we nerve and strengthen the arms 
of Israel by pressing up with all our might to 
share the trials and dangers of the forefront 
heroes, instead of sounding sad recalls ? 
When we forget the power of looking back, 
and " press toward the mark for the prize of 
the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," then 
will we once more hear the shout of mighty 
ones in our midst, and the standard of the 
Lord shall go forward. 

"They did to him what they listed, " said 
Jesus. Strange liberty granted the children 
of this world ; terrible legacy of wrath laid up 
against the day of wrath. It is hard for the 
Christian to endure the treatment of wrong 
from the hands of a wicked world. He feels, 
" O, if only it were the Lord, how meekly 
would I bow, how humbly would I bare my 
bosom to His stroke. But it is these unfeeling 
sinners, these lovers of violence and wrong led 
on by vindictiveness, malice, and all fiendish 
spleen — how can we endure this ?" Ah ! were 


Herod and Herodias saints ? Yet they and the 
party they represented did what they listed 
with God's mighty hero. And our Lord Him- 
self says, " Likewise shall the Son of Man suffer 
of them." " Consider Him who endured such 
contradiction of sinners against himself, lest 
ye be tempted ;" for God holds the sinners' 
chain, and it is just as true of our enemies as 
it was with Pilate, to whom Jesus said, " Thou 
couldst have no power at all against me, except 
it were given thee from above." We must 
look beneath all the moanings and tossings of 
this world's sea, and we will find our Father 
still holds it in "the hollow of His hand." The 
wicked have done wickedly, and have wrung 
the lips of God's saints with anguish, from the 
days of Abel until now ; nevertheless, we can 
truly say, " I will put my trust in God, for He 
is the help of my countenance, and my God." 
Again, there is great joy and love for the 
saints in all this ordering of the Lord. We are 
told that the Master Himself, " for the glory 
"before Him set, endured the cross, despised 
the shame, and is set down at the right hand 
of God." Wherever we turn, through the 


walks of God's word, we meet the same strong 
current of revelation coupling the heroism of 
the Christian with the joy and glory that is to 
be his forever. Jesus said to the sons of Zebe- 
dee, when they asked to be seated on His right 
hand and on His left, in His glory, " Are ye 
able to drink of the cup I shall drink, and be 
baptized with the baptism I shall be baptized 
with ?" Here He couples the conflict and the 
glory. Again, " If we suffer with Him, we 
shall also reign with Him." Again, " Be faith- 
ful unto death, and I will give you a crown of 
life." And when the words of the glorified 
Son of God peal forth in messages to the seven 
churches, seven times over does He utter, " to 
him that overcometh." And no star of glory, 
no song of rejoicing, no palm of victory, no 
name in the temple of our God is vouchsafed 
to any but the conquering heroes. Said the 
apocalyptic angel of that vast multitude no 
man could number, as they stood in their white 
robes and waved their victor palms, " These 
are they which came up through great tribula- 
tion, and have washed their robes, and made 
them white in the blood of the Lamb." 


But there is another depth of comfort 
and glory in these words of our Lord. 
They tell of a union of hearts and lives way 
down deep in the characters of men and 
women. Jesus let John suffer, not only be- 
cause it is Godlike to suffer' for right, but 
because by such sufferings great souls are 
knit in eternal bonds of holy love. The 
martyrs were altogether under the altar 
which St. John saw in the heavenly vision. 
Nor will time nor eternity separate those who 
have met and learned to love in the great 
forefront of the battle. It pleased God in 
bringing many sons to glory, " to make the 
Captain of their salvation perfect through 
suffering." Yes, the sufferings of Christ woo 
us as nothing else could do. " If I be lifted 
up," Jesus cries, " I will draw all men unto 
me." These great yearnings of the soul for 
deeds of greatness have a higher aim and more 
glorious end than to devastate and make deso- 
late God's beautiful earth, and strew it with 
millions slain. Guided by the spirit of God, 
they lay hold of the heroism of the Son of 


God, who exalts courage to its loftiest and 
truest aim and end. 

It is a grand sight to see Jesus marching 
thus past the block red with John's martyr- 
blood, beholding it with a love deep, tender, 
rich, and heroic beyond human comprehension, 
and thus steadily turn His own warm bosom 
toward Calvary. Look at Jesus in this light, 
and then weigh His words : " If any man will 
come after me, let him deny himself and take 
up his cross daily and follow me." Yes, follow 
Him as He followed John, and all that noble 
army of martyrs before him. Such are the 
followers Jesus loves to overtake Him, and 
when they do reach their Lord, surely there is 
a richness, depth, sweetness, life, and rest in 
the union that weak souls cannot know, but 
is surely for them who have suffered with Him, 
and who " shall reign with Him forever and 
ever. * Amen." 



" At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of 
Jesus, and said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist ; 
he is risen from the dead ; and therefore mighty works do 
shew forth themselves in him." — Matt. 14 : 1, 2. 

r I ^ H E bloody head of the man of God was 
-*• not easily wiped from the memory of 
Herod. The horrible deed had kindled some- 
thing of the flame which could not be quenched, 
and restless horrors startled him with the 
creepings of " the worm that never dies." The 
day of grace had been despised, and had faded 
into the night of feverish, startling dreams, 
the shadows of despair. Let us look closely at 
this man's soul, and see the traces of God's 
avenging finger. Let us, if possible, allow the 
terrible warning of Herod's doom speak out to 
those who dare despise God's day of mercy. 

The gay assembly of the birthday festivities 
was soon gone. The stimulating excitement 


of false pride, cooling, died into sickly, loath- 
ing disgust. Self-respect stood mutilated be- 
fore the bar of conscience. The silence of life 
called the soul into her hushed chambers, 
and turned it loose . upon itself, and the 
poor cowardly heart is left to the irrevocable 
consequences of its miserable selfishness and 
weakness. Never again could Herod go in his 
hours of weakness and soul-tempest to hear 
the deep, true, strong soul of John calling him 
into a safe and higher life. The cistern of 
pure waters was broken, so he could no more 
refresh his polluted soul therefrom. John was 
beheaded, but Herod died. He had sinned 
against his better self and his God. Every- 
thing that could create and intensify remorse 
was in his life, and it haunted him as spectres 
from the tombs. John the Baptist still lived 
before his tormented soul, no longer as a vic- 
tim of his power and malice, but as one whose 
very life of holiness existed to haunt him. All 
that by God's grace might have been turned 
into real rest, joy, peace, love, and glory, had 
by sin been made to his soul visions of con- 
demning wrath, gathering about him from their 


tombs. One word of command could cast 
John's body from his prison-house a lifeless 
trunk, but all the combined powers of his 
being could not cast his memory from the ter- 
rified soul. 

Here, then, is one of the legacies good and 
true lives leave the world. They are as truly 
" a savor of death unto death" to the unrelent- 
ing wicked, as they are of life unto life to the 
fearers and lovers of God. And yet what a 
temptation Satan ever makes for people, and 
especially young people, to neglect and even 
deride and persecute the good about them. 
How often do we hear it said, and how much 
oftener is it felt, " that the fear of being 
laughed at and being persecuted by the world 
keeps me back from Christ." And who is this 
tormenting world ? They are men and 
women who break over the blessings and mer- 
cies God throws around them, with a hollow 
pretence of courage and greatness, to cast dis- 
dain upon Him. Let me here speak a word 
of warning from the depths of my heart, pray- 
ing God's spirit to plant it as a living seed in 
yours. The days will come when those mes- 


sengers of good, so lovingly sent from God, 
*will be called away. Their Father loves them 
too much to keep them exposed to the indig- 
nities and persecutions of a bold bad world ; 
and, once gone, your heart-hopes will wander 
about, seeking, as it were, comfort and sym- 
pathy from the tombs. Your future rest be- 
comes a half-hoped, half-dreaded vision of 
ghastly apparitions. Your treacherous heart 
will wake up all too late to the vastness of the 
never-to-be-restored loss. They are gone, 
gone, gone, and left a great loneliness in life, 
a great darkness in hope, a great restlessness 
in peace, a great void in the heart that earth 
can never 'fill, but which stands trembling, 
dreading, yet yearning toward the graveyard, 
where your rashness has driven, all too soon, 
the sweetest, loveliest, and truest friends of 
your heart. Few are the souls who cannot 
look back and see some terrible blight caused 
by sinful intent or neglect. What would you 
give to-day to have the holy influence of that 
pious, praying mother, long since laid away to 
rest, whose soul-yearnings in days gone by you 
almost despised and trampled under foot, 


whose prayers you thought beneath the dignity 
of your young spirit, whose advice you haugh- 
tily scorned ? Well, she has gone to " the echo- 
less shore," and, call as you will, you cannot 
bring her back. You may see some great and 
mighty doings of God's spirit, and hear of the 
wonders of His grace, as the battle deepens 
and the conquest goes forward, and it will 
make you realize that your mother's holy in- 
fluence lives again ; but she comes not back to 
your yearning heart and empty life. 

We need not pass beyond the tomb to real- 
ize Herod's emotions. There are death-scenes 
in every life as sad as the hushed grave. We 
have murdered associations that spoke peace, 
comfort, strength, and love to our hearts — mur- 
dered them in some false pride, some harsh 
moment of vindictiveness, some evil hour of 
darkness, which passed and left us but a corpse 
of joys that lived nearest and deepest within 
our hearts. What can all the fascinations of 
the world's giddy, pleasing device, which made 
us do the rash deed, pay us for these ? What 
can all its gaudy, empty, mocking hollow- 
heartedness give us for lost jewels of heavenly 


purity and holy value ? No, they are gone, 
and the powers they once wielded in us seem 
but the doings of departed spirits as we hear 
of them from without. We may hear of others' 
pleasures, and see others' joys, and we may 
feel John the Baptist has risen from the dead ; 
but we also feel that he will not come back to 
us, however much we may desire to see him. 
And if we, like Herod, abuse God's mercies by 
His servants, we, like Herod, will stand one 
day before the King of pity and throne of 
mercy, all unanswered. Jesus will become as 
silent to the Herods of the nineteenth century 
as He was to Herod the tetrarch. 

But there is another thought here for the 
child of God. However much he may be de- 
spised and persecuted, yet his trueness to God 
must carve its testimony on the stony hearts 
of this world ; his light must leave its traces 
amid the gathered gloom ; his purity must 
breathe its fragrance amid the sickening fumes 
of death. God will be glorified. Even though 
the darkness may not comprehend the light 
that shines in it, yet will the eyes of heaven 
rejoice in its glory. We live for others -than 


the wicked of this world and age. We are 
passing on amid scenes and hosts and glories 
whose vastness appals the comprehension. 
Our bearing amid the scenes and struggles of 
the conflict thrill other spirits than those of 
the enemy. Ah ! the seen is such a small part 
of life compared to the unseen ; earth's is- 
sues are so insignificant compared to the great 
bringings forth of eternity ! We shall as really 
enter into the joys of judgment and justice as 
we shall those of mercy and love. We must 
have our Herods — foxes who would sacrifice all 
we hold sacred and dear for mere worldly fame 
or pleasure — strong powers who appear to cir- 
cumscribe and imprison our usefulness, and 
keep us back from the work of God. Let us 
remember that one of God's grandest works is 
to make grace stand out superior to these, and 
rise above their narrow, brief prison walls into 
the unmeasured vastness of the glory about 
us — the overwhelming joy of the sons of God 
— for we are truly "come unto Mount Sion, 
and unto the city of the living God, the 
heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable 
company of angels, to the general assembly 


and church of the first-born which are written 
in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to 
the spirits of just men made perfect, and to 
Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and 
to the blood of sprinkling which speaketh bet- 
ter things than the blood of Abel." Here, 
then, is our stand. To the wicked we may 
leave dim forebodings and dreadings ; but for 
us, the so glorious realities stand out in all the 
fulness and clearness of the love of God. 



" He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were 
willing for a season to rejoice in his light." — John 5 : 35. 

'nr N HE hush has fallen again along Jordan's 
■*• banks and Judea's mountains. The 
great preacher has gone home. His words 
have smote a vast multitude of human hearts, 
for weal or woe, for joy or sorrow, for life or 
death. Jesus turns and reviews the field with 
deep emotion and words of warning. He ex- 
claims of John the Baptist, " He was a burn- 
ing and a shining light." Yes, John's was 
the real fire. No false, borrowed glimmering, 
no glacial reflection in icy coldness. The 
man's life was a fire. His soul burned in the 
flames of living zeal. He was consuming life's 
forces in the intensity of his service. Men felt 
that some living force dwelt in him. The mul- 
titudes were conscious of a warmth and glow 


about him that they failed to find in any of the 
formalities of priest or Pharisee. They laid 
their hand on his bosom, and felt it warm with 
the fires of real life. No hollow emptiness 
there. Every word spoken was to John a 
burning reality. His theology came as live 
coals from the altar of his God, each one fir- 
ing his own soul and intensifying his own life, 
making it a shining light. If ever man had 
done his part by man as well as God, John 
had. His great heroic soul lifted up the mighty 
truths of God-blazing beacons from the furnace 
of his own life within. He shone with a glory 
amid the doubts, gloom, and darkness of a de- 
generate world, that soul-light gleaming along 
the shrouded paths of ten thousand lives. The 
poor and forsaken, the publicans and harlots 
saw a tenderness of mercy arising out of the 
gloom, and felt a glow of sympathy the 
Church had never given before, thawing and 
waking their hearts into life and responsiveness. 
The surrounding world felt "he was a man 
sent from God," and this feeling sent a thrill 
of quicker, gladder life through their hearts. 
Ah, the glory that God has placed within 


the reach of a human life ! He makes it possi- 
ble for man to rise and shine, a thing of glo- 
rious beauty to His eyes. Jesus was deep- 
ly touched and greatly rejoiced at the life of 
John. It came up out of the darkness and 
gloom of a world's selfishness and sin, and 
stood before Him warm with the glow of 
heaven's own fires, grand with the principles 
of God Himself. Caesars and kings were noth- 
ing in comparison to its depths of joy, 
strength, right, and glory of immortality. 
Jesus rejoiced in the warmth and light of 
John's life/and then shows us where the secret of 
His joy lies. He wants our souls burning with 
holy zeal, and wants that zeal to give earth a 
brighter glow — wants us to be stars for the 
Sun of Righteousness to light up, constella- 
tions in the firmament of His love, held in our 
orbits by the gravitation of His love, showing 
forth His glory by the gladness and trueness 
of our lives. 

But there was another picture before the 
mind of Jesus as He spoke, and. He told it in 
the words, " Ye were willing for a season to re- 
joice in his light." Yes, they had stood by the 


side of God's great preacher, had heard the 
words as they fell burning from his heart of 
fire, had seen the old dispensation lighted by 
the great splendors of his true life like an old 
castle by the beams of the morning star ; and 
they rejoiced, but their joy was but for a 
season. It was the terrible joy of sensation- 
lovers instead of truth-hunters and right-doers. 
Their inner lives offered no fuel for the burn- 
ing flames of John's zeal to ignite. They 
simply warmed themselves by the fire of 
another, only walked by the glory of the shoot- 
ing-star as it blazed across their pathway, but 
gathered none of its brightness. Theirs was 
the reflected joy of another ; they had no joy 
within themselves, and so their lamps went 
out while the bridegroom tarried, and they 
slept. When the cry arose, '* The bridegroom 
cometh : go ye forth to meet him !" lo, they 
awoke in darkness, and cried out in helpless 
perplexity. The day for shining in borrowed 
glory had forever passed. The rejoicing chil- 
dren of the bride-chamber passed in, leaving 
them in outer darkness and wretchedness. The 
joy of a season died in the night of eternal 


gloom. This was the tone of sadness that per- 
vaded our Lord's words to the multitudes 
about Him, and especially the scribes and 
Pharisees, who could not be changed into bet- 
ter men, despite the burning life and glowing 

We, too, have been touching that burning 
heart and rejoicing in the splendid life of John 
the Baptist. We have felt the mighty tides 
of his soul lift us and press us on out deeper 
into the vast ocean of God's purposes. Shall 
it be the joy of a season ? The seed on the 
rock with no depth of earth Beneath it ? The 
rustlings of the leafy fig-tree ? The Hosannas 
of the fickle multitude ? Shall John the Bap- 
tist simply be our admiration ; or, shall John's 
purposes be ours, and fire our lives ? Shall 
John's principles gird our hearts with strength ? 
Shall John's God be our God? If there are 
to be any solid results, we must arise from the 
contemplation of this mighty man's life with a 
desire and determination to act. We must 
cast aside self and lay firm hold- of the living 
God. It is a terrible thing for God's lights of 
mercy to go out, leaving souls just where they 


found them. It is an awful thought to be 
mere children of sensation. They may have 
preachers whose zeal and fire may burn and 
glow as did John the Baptist's ; but what the 
preacher is can never save the hearer irrespec- 
tive of what he is himself. We will not stand 
or fall by the mere impulses we have felt on 
our souls, but by the life of God in our souls. 
"Christ in you the hope of glory," and the 
only hope. 

Can we, like John, look out on the work, in 
at self, and up at Jesus, with the grand words 
of glory," I must decrease, He must increase" ? 
These words are no sad requiem over fading 
worldly honors, but a welcoming of the incom- 
ing tide of glory ; not words of mere hopeless- 
ness, but the exultings of a soul sinking into 
the boundless sea of glory and love. It is that 
lofty attitude which causes the Spirit to write, 
" Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." 
Yes, passing into Him with the full, sweet 
hidings of eternal rest. A few more strokes of 
time's oars and we stand on the eternal shore, 
confronting the long line of "spirits of just 
men made perfect," whose lives the sacred 


pages of God's word have flashed down upon 
us. Will we stand there with hearts burning 
with the intensity of their lives ; and, above all, 
will we have been able to drink of our Lord's 
cup and be baptized with His baptism as far as 
men can be ? Will we so have suffered with 
Him as to be counted worthy to reign with 
Him ? Thus to deepen our glory into the glory 
of our Lord, whose joy. shall be in us, and our 
joy shall be full — one with all the saints in 
glory, one with Christ the living head for- 
ever. Amen. 


Deacidified using the Bookkeeper process. 
Neutralizing agent: Magnesium Oxide 
Treatment Date: June 2005 



1 1 1 Thomson Park Drive